DescriptionHenri Baptiste Lebasque (French, 1865-1937)
Sur les bords de la Marne, 1901
Oil on canvas
23-1/4 x 40-3/4 inches (59.1 x 103.5 cm)
Signed and dated lower right: Lebasque 1901
PROPERTY FROM A PROMINENT HOUSTON ESTATE
Hammer Galleries, New York (Stamped verso - no. 51874-1);
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1973.
A principal figure in the Post-Impressionist movement in France, Henri Lebasque has often been acknowledged as a 'painter of the good life', with his works depicting members of his family and other figures at home, in gardens, on terraces and by the shore. Lebasque imbued his picturesque glimpses of daily life with a quiet tranquility, and painted in a spontaneous yet composed manner, which merged several of the avant-garde artistic movements of the time, resulting in a unique and pleasing style that was all his own.
In 1893, Lebasque held his first exhibition at the Salon des Independants, where he met prominent Post-Impressionists Paul Signac and Maximilien Luce. A year later, he began to visit Camille Pissarro's house on the outskirts of Paris. Pissarro was one of the first to recognize Lebasque's talents in 1903, praising his work, and Lebasque would proceed to study with the Post-Impressionist master and become inspired by his groundbreaking use of Pointillism. Lebasque also absorbed Pointillist techniques and aspects of color theory through his acquaintances with Signac and Georges Seurat.
The same year he met Pissarro, Lebasque became a founding member of the Salon d'Automne along with his friend Henri Matisse. The artists in this innovative exhibition became known as Les Fauves, or "Wild Beasts," for their bold, unprecedented use of strong color, and their painterly, abstract approach to composition. Lebasque's style departed considerably from the other Fauves, however. Unlike his peers, Lebasque eschewed wild, ferocious color, instead drawing inspiration from the softer Impressionist palette of his mentor, Pissarro. Lebasque evolved a distinctive yet also accessible aesthetic that employed energetic brushstrokes combined with a palette that was vaporous, delicate and harmonious.
From 1900 to 1906, the artist began to paint along the banks of the Marne River, in the Lagny-sur-Marne, an area just outside Paris in the Île-de-France. The region would play a prominent role in his subject matter thereafter, proving to be the perfect setting for his plein-air painting.
The present work is, by any measure, a tour de force from the Marne period in Lebasque's oeuvre. Painted on an exceptionally large scale for the artist, all of the aspects of this region Lebasque had come to deeply admire are present: the clear and gentle current of the river, the greenery and foliage of its shoreline featuring vibrant poplar trees, and the brilliant, dappled sunlight and fleeting atmospheric effects unique to the Ile-de-France.
In addition, Lebasque's incorporation of figures at leisure on a sunny afternoon in Sur les bords de la Marne is also significant. Certainly, the depiction of a daily glimpse into genteel society was a staple of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist subject matter. However, human figures are rare in Lebasque's paintings of the Marne and its surrounding landscape. In this work, one sees boaters gathering at the shore, where elegant women adorned in pastel frocks and bonnets sun themselves, or find respite under the shade of a parasol or poplar tree. This archetypal depiction of well-mannered society in a sunlit landscape is the embodiment of high Impressionism: but Lebasque's freshly modern, Post-Impressionist broken-brushwork technique would have signaled to viewers at the time an up-to-date departure from the works of his Impressionist predecessors.
We wish to thank Denise Bazetoux for kindly confirming the authenticity of this painting, which will be included in her supplement to the catalogue raisonné currently in preparation. The lot is accompanied by her photo-certificate, dated January 24, 2017.
Glue-lined canvas; minor craquelure throughout with slightly more noticeable craquelure in upper left corner; under UV light, there appears to be tiny touches of inpaint scattered throughout; some inpaint to address craquelure in sky; a 1.5 inch diameter spot of inpaint in upper right corner; an approx. 5 x 4 inch section of inpainting in upper left corner. Framed Dimensions 31.75 X 49.25 Inches
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