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The Four Times of Day: Evening
Nicolas Lancret
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This is the final scene in Lancret’s series of paintings The Four Times of Day. By the silvery light of a spring or summer moon a group of women are bathing together in a woodland pond. One of the women standing in the pond is about to splash another who is lying on the ground, apparently testing the water with her foot. The other lady in the water covers her breast with her chemise and looks to her right as though she has heard a noise among the trees. One lady rubs her foot, apparently about to descend from the flat-bottomed boat, while another wrings out water from the hem of her shift.

Evening is in poor condition. Nicolas de Larmessin III’s print after the painting, presented to the Académie royale de peinture et de sculpture in 1741, suggests that it was once much more animated and finely detailed.

Key facts
Artist Nicolas Lancret
Artist dates 1690 - 1743
Full title The Four Times of Day: Evening
Series The Four Times of Day
Date made 1739-41
Medium and support Oil on copper
Dimensions 28.8 x 36.8 cm
Acquisition credit Bequeathed by Sir Bernard Eckstein, 1948
Inventory number NG5870
Location in Gallery Not on display
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The Four Times of Day

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We do not know whether someone commissioned The Four Times of Day: Morning, Midday, Afternoon and Evening or whether Lancret produced them speculatively in the hope of making money from the engravings, since series of prints were popular with the public. Painting series of pictures was something of a speciality for Lancret – he had already produced The Four Seasons in about 1719, The Four Elements by August 1732, and The Four Ages of Man (also in the National Gallery’s collection) by July 1735. The Four Times of Day was complete by February 1741, when the engraver Nicolas de Larmessin III presented proofs of his engravings of them to the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in Paris.

This series was painted on copper, which allowed for the fine and detailed brushwork we see here in the hands and faces of the principal figures, where Lancret made numerous small adjustments to produce particular expressions and gestures.

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