John Leslie Breck’s painting of Suzanne Hoschedé captures a familiar theme of the Impressionist painters — women seated in the grass, contentedly sewing in the shade beneath a tree. The demure and self-contained pictures offer an idealized image of the women’s devotion to the home and personal idiosyncrasies or notions of sexual independence are quietly but firmly implied. Suzanne was the eldest of four daughters and regularly modeled for her stepfather, Claude Monet. In this painting, Breck portrayed her as an arch-type of quiet domesticity – shown in profile and shaded by a large straw hat that draws attention to her activity. Breck carefully framed Suzanne to exclude her feet and legs. Her bold red blouse stands out from the other warm and cool tones in the bright, sunlit field.
The painting, which been in the same collection for 110 years, can be dated to 1888, as a photograph from April of that year shows Breck painting a work called Twilight with Suzanne visibly sewing by his side. Breck came to the Impressionist style while painting with Monet, and his portrait of Suzanne demonstrates how far he progressed in a short time. Breck left Giverny in 1891 after his relationship with Monet deteriorated and his courting of Suzanne’s younger sister, Blanche, ended. Suzanne eventually married one of Breck’s acquaintances. His painting of Suzanne beneath a poplar tree remains a timeless image of her youth and enduring beauty.