Rupert BUNNY, Qui vient? [Who comes?] Enlarge 1 /1

On display on Level 1

Rupert BUNNY

St Kilda, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 1864 – 1947

  • England and France 1884-1933

Qui vient? [Who comes?] [The balcony, Verandah with two figures] c.1908 Place made: Paris, Île-de-France, Ville de Paris department, France
Materials & Technique: paintings, oil on canvas

Primary Insc: signed lower left in black oil, "Rupert C W Bunny". not dated.
Dimensions: 81.0 h x 54.2 w cm framed (overall) 91.5 h x 66.0 w x 6.5 d cm
Cat Raisonné: Eagle(1991),10
Acknowledgement: John B. Pye Bequest 1963
Accession No: NGA 63.7

Rupert Bunny was one of the most successful Australian expatriates in France in his own time, aided by a firm command of the French language and early successes in the Old Salon.

Bunny is best known for his sumptuous compositions of women at leisure in gardens and interiors painted during the Belle Epoque. These paintings reveal Bunny’s intuitive feeling for colour and his pleasure in depicting scenes of everyday life, particularly the effects of light over the voluminous elegance of the silken tea-gowns worn by his models.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2013
From: Miriam kelly, Capital & Country: The Federation Years 1900 – 1913, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2013

Who comes? is from a series of works by Rupert Bunny titled Days and nights in August that conjure up an atmosphere of sensuous intimacy and luxurious domesticity—of women living out intensely feminine lives. These works evoke exotic perfume, romantic poetry and lyrical music. Bunny’s chief model was his French wife, Jeanne, whom he married in 1902, and who posed for both figures in this painting.

The artist used only a few colours: red, yellow, black, brown, white and blue. He has evoked warm sunlight filtering through the red-and-yellow striped blind, creating a strong geometrical pattern. A half-light shimmers on the translucent, filmy fabric of the flowing tea gowns, breaking up the shapes of the figures, with the forms and outlines in flux, capturing the indefiniteness of nature.

Bunny was an Australian-born artist who spent most of his painting career in Paris. As well as his depictions of the leisured life of women, he painted many images of ancient myths and stories from classical literature with resonances to modern life. After the death of his wife in 1933, Bunny returned permanently to Australia.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Ron Radford (ed), Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2008

Who comes? is from a series of works by Rupert Bunny titled Days and nights in August that conjure up an atmosphere of sensuous intimacy and luxurious domesticity; of women living out intensely feminine lives. These works evoke exotic perfume, romantic poetry and lyrical music. Bunny’s chief model was his French wife Jeanne, whom he married in 1902, and who posed for both figures in this painting.

The artist used only a few colours: red, yellow, black, brown, white and blue. He evoked warm sunlight filtering through the red-and-yellow striped blind, creating a strong geometrical pattern. A half-light shimmers on the translucent, filmy fabric of the flowing tea gowns, breaking up the shapes of the figures, with the forms and outlines in flux, capturing the indeterminacy of nature.

Bunny was an Australian-born artist who spent most of his painting career in Paris. As well as his depictions of the leisured life of women, he painted many images of ancient myths and stories from classical literature with resonances of modern life. After the death of his wife in 1933, Bunny returned permanently to Australia.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014

Who comes? is one of a series of works called ‘Days and Nights in August’, painted by Rupert Bunny between 1907 and 1911, which evoke a mood of intimacy and luxurious leisure; of perfume, poetry and distant music. The colours in Who comes? are few – white, black, brown, red, yellow – and they have been orchestrated so that small colour accents are played off against a basic theme. Warm sunlight, filtering through a boldly striped blind, colours the upper part of the picture, whereas in the half-light below the blind the flounced skirts shimmer translucently.

Bunny’s chief model, posing for both figures in this painting, was his wife Jeanne. She was ‘a beautiful French woman and her husband delighted to paint her in the long, flounced and flowing dresses of the period. Once he said, with faint distaste: “When short skirts came in I no longer wanted to paint women”’.1

The drapery has been painted in a way that has little relation to the bodies beneath. One reviewer in 1911 explained Bunny’s preference for loose drapery as a way of capturing or complementing the indefiniteness of nature, ‘leaving forms and outlines in a state of indecision and flux’.2  In contrast to the geometry of the striped blind, Bunny’s rendering of filmy cloth breaks the shapes so that the attention goes not to outlines and large areas but to surfaces and small accents. The effect is sensuous. Bunny was portraying a luxurious domesticity which, in the fashion terms of the day, was well represented by the tea-gown: ‘It gives a man a sort of luxurious feel of being an Oriental Pasha, as he lies in his chair, smoking the ever-present cigarette, to see himself surrounded by graceful houris clad in gauze and gorgeous draperies shimmering’.3Marcel Proust wrote at length on the same theme in A la recherche du temps perdu (1913–27) and, like Bunny, he lamented the passing of this excessively feminine style with the coming of the First World War.

Mary Eagle4

1 Lucy Swanton, ‘Memoir of Rupert Bunny’, typescript, [Sydney]: Newcastle Region Art Gallery, 1968.

2 Melbourne Argus, 24 July 1911, p.7.

3 ‘Lamia’ in London Country Life, 28 September 1907.

4 Mary Eagle, The Art of Rupert Bunny, Canberra: Australian National Gallery, 1991, p.64.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002