Paul Cornoyer, an American Impressionist artist, was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1864. In 1881 he entered the St. Louis School of Fine Arts to study under the tutelage of Halsey C. Ives. At first he painted in a style most closely related to that of the Barbizon School. The first exhibition of his works was held in 1887. In 1889 he traveled to Paris to study further at the Académie Julien with Jules Lefebre, Louis Blanc and Benjamin Constant. While Cornoyer was in Paris, he also traveled to London and to Venice. During this time he was exposed to French Impressionism and thus began to paint landscapes and cityscapes in a more fluid, tonal and lyrical style which reflected his own conservative interpretation of this artistic movement. He returned to his home in St. Louis in 1894 and that same year painted a mural at the Planters Hotel which depicted the birth of St. Louis. There is little information concerning his work during the next six years with the exception of the creation of a triptych entitled A View of St. Louis which became synonymous with the city of St. Louis and its depiction as the Gateway to the West.
In 1899 the artist William Merritt Chase, impressed with the work of Paul Cornoyer which he had seen in Paris, encouraged him to leave St. Louis and to travel to New York City. It was in New York City that Cornoyer created the urban cityscapes for which he is best known. His canvases were tonal depictions of street scenes especially after a rainfall. He was able to capture the essence of city life with its stark pavements, horse drawn carriages with drivers and passengers, as well as tree lined streets, and tall buildings. While in New York City Cornoyer took time to teach at the Mechanics Institute. He met other artists such as Childe Hassam, J. Alden Weir, Thomas Dewing and John Henry Twachtman who introduced him to the art school schools in Rockport, Gloucester, and other parts of New England. In 1917 he moved permanently to Massachusetts and established his studio in East Gloucester. In 1922 he was instrumental in founding the Glouester Art Association which later became the North Shore Arts Association. He was a mainstay of the Cape Ann School of Painting where he often taught. He was highly regarded as one of the best art instructors of his time. Cornoyer continued to paint and to exhibit his works until his death on June 17, 1923.
Goose Girl presents a bucolic scene featuring a dark foreground and subtle tonal modulations which come together to suggest an atmosphere of fading afternoon sunlight. No hints of industry or modernization are present; Cornoyer's turn-of-the-century composition is intent on preserving the pastoral beauty of this rural American scene. Though a heightened sense of verticality takes precedence in this compositional arrangement by way of its central system of elongated trunks, Cornoyer employs figure and fauna, along with color and light effects, to balance the weight and heft of the trees that provide the canvas with its essential structure.