Le Square Saint Pierre, Paris signed 'Nonell-' (lower right) oil on canvas 61.5 x 47cm (24 3/16 x 18 1/2in).
LITERATURE: Enric Jardi, Nonell, Ediciones Polígrafa, S.A., Barcelona, 1985, no.55, illustrated p.50. The catalogue dates the work to 1897.
Le Square Saint Pierre depicts a scene in the park at the foot of the Butte Montmartre, painted during the artist's stay in Paris between 1897 and 1900. While best known for his depictions of melancholic gypsies, which were his primary fascination from 1901, Nonell's early work shows a preoccupation with landscape painting, especially the period in Barcelona between 1893 and 1896. While in Paris, he became particularly interested in urban and suburban landscape. These landscapes caught the attention of certain art critics and earned the young Nonell his first recognition as a painter.
During his stay in Paris, Nonell absorbed the work of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. This influence is reflected in some small studies of the French capital and also the present lot, painted with vivid colour and bold treatment of light. Interestingly the same place was painted a few years before by Paul Signac.
While in Paris, Nonell's output was limited, and he was mostly focused on drawing street scenes. He was especially interested in the people who frequented the parks and gardens of the city, and he made numerous sketches of men and women walking, resting or chatting, nannies, children playing, dressmakers sewing or ladies reading the newspaper.
These drawings served as preparatory sketches for a more ambitious composition, such as the present lot which is the only example of the period where Nonell explores these subjects in oil paint. This makes the painting a unique and important work. Here, the subjects he was to paint in such volume and detail later in his career, are placed in a larger composition. The work shares a similar treatment of vibrant brushstrokes and impasto techniques with the few known Nonell paintings of this period.
In Le Square Saint Pierre, Nonell combines the immediacy and naturalness, characteristic of his drawings, with added light and colour. The scene was probably painted from life, with fluently handled colourful brushstrokes, loose and spontaneous, which perfectly harmonize warm and cool, light and shadow ranges. The artist masterfully manages to capture the atmosphere of a sunny day and the sleepiness of the characters sitting in a lazy pose under the shelter of lush vegetation.
We are grateful to Glòria Escala for her assistance in cataloguing this lot.