Henri Lebasque (French, 1865-1937) Villa Demière, Madame Lebasque et Marthe à la fontaine (Painted in 1907)

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Lot 32
Henri Lebasque
(French, 1865-1937)
Villa Demière, Madame Lebasque et Marthe à la fontaine

Sold for £ 152,500 (US$ 208,220) inc. premium
Henri Lebasque (1865-1937)
Villa Demière, Madame Lebasque et Marthe à la fontaine
signed and dated 'Lebasque 1907' (lower left)
oil on canvas
89.5 x 79.8cm (35 1/4 x 31 7/16in).
Painted in 1907


  • The authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by Madame Maria de la Ville-Fromoit and Madame Christine Lenoir.

    Anon. sale, Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, 28 November 1924, lot 39.
    Anon. sale, A. Bellier, Paris, 24 June 1953, lot 86.
    Anon. sale, Wetterwald-Rannou, Nice, 26 November 2000, lot 173.
    Richard Green, London, no. AX181MS.
    Private collection (acquired from the above in 2001).
    Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, 6 May 2010, lot 352.
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.

    Le Cannet-Rocheville, Salon de l'Hôtel-de-Ville, Henri Lebasque, 10 - 30 March 1970, no. 8.
    Vence, Château des Villeneuve, Fondation Emile-Hugues, Henri Lebasque, July – September 1981, no. 13 (titled 'La toilette de l'adolescente').

    D. Bazetoux, Henri Lebasque, catalogue raisonné, Vol. I, Neuilly-sur-Marne, 2008, no. 1175 (illustrated p. 290).

    In 1906 at the age of 40 Henri Lebasque travelled with his companions Henri Matisse and Henri Manguin to the South of France. The trip was made at the suggestion of Manguin and was prompted by the artist's desire for a better climate and new source of inspiration. The discovery of Provence was to have the most profound effect on Lebasque who became fascinated by the prevailing atmosphere and luminosity of the region, so much so that he was soon known under the epithet 'painter of joy and light'. Several of his contemporaries were already well acquainted with this region which became a favoured destination for artists such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Signac and Pierre Bonnard. Staying in Manguin's villa La Demière, which dominated St. Tropez, Lebasque became mesmerised by the landscape before him and executed a series of coastal views surrounding l'Esterel. From then on, Lebasque returned to this area on many occasions moving between the villages of St. Tropez, St. Maxime and Cannes before finally settling in Le Cannet with his family in 1924.

    Painted in 1907, Villa Demière, Marthe et Madame Lebasque à la fontaine, perfectly embodies Lebasque's new found joy in the Mediterranean light. Here Lebasque depicts one of his favourite subjects - an idyllic moment of everyday family life. His wife and his elder daughter Marthe are portrayed on a large scale and at the very centre of the composition drawing the viewer into an intimate and tender moment. Their faces, turned at an angle, are largely obscured yet the depiction of Marthe's intense gaze skilfully leads us down to the kneeling figure, her mother gently drying her feet. As Lisa Banner explains, 'Lebasque achieves intimacy with his subjects by this technique, leaving them the anonymity of disguise by careful omission of facial distinction and coaxing greater expression from the limbs and body poses of his sitters' (L. Banner, Lebasque 1865 - 1937, San Francisco, 1986, p. 18). Within the painting the emphasis is on the accomplished recreation of a deeply maternal scene, in which a mother dutifully cares for her daughter and where the bond of maternal love is expressed without a word or an exchange of looks.

    As seen in the present work, Lebasque presents his sitters in a natural state. Indeed, the genre of the nude established a particularly important place in Lebasque's oeuvre at this time. Although he did not portray many nudes at the beginning of his career, his discovery of the South of France naturally created an atmosphere appropriate to their execution. As of 1907 they gradually became the principal subject of the artist who executed nudes more confidently, often placing his figures at the forefront of the canvas allowing them to occupy most of the space. Lebasque also deliberately chose to paint the women he knew, presenting them in their most natural settings rather than painting unknown models in his atelier. In Villa Demière, Marthe et Madame Lebasque à la fontaine, although Lebasque chooses to set the scene outdoors, he recreates an intimacy which echoes the interior domestic scenes often portrayed by his contemporaries such as Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard.

    In describing a scene bathed in Mediterranean sunlight, Lebasque employs a palette of vibrant colours executed through a flurry of purples, greens, pinks and blues. Yet he counterbalances the heat and intensity of the view by placing his subjects next to a cooling fountain, simultaneously harmonising the riot of colour with the cool, virginal white of the dress and cloth to evoke an exquisitely refreshing atmosphere. The application of short brushstrokes, in accordance with the Impressionist technique, also serves to capture the transient effects of nature, including the delicate play of light on his subjects' skin. Using the colours of the surrounding environment and in suggesting rather than defining the forms of his wife and daughter, Lebasque creates the impression that his loved ones are gently being enveloped by nature itself.

    In Villa Demière, Marthe et Madame Lebasque à la fontaine, the natural presentation of his wife and daughter aims to capture them en plein air simply and genuinely: 'Lebasque's primary concern, in the majority of his works were with simple expressions of sensuous surface. He wrestled with the problems of showing wind on water, or of the warmth seeping into a woman's skin under a sunny sky. It is evident in all of Lebasque's work as in the group of nude paintings completed at Le Cannet, that Lebasque developed the sureness to define the gains of his early experiments. He achieved an intimate manner of painting those scenes and people most dear to him, which was replete with his personal delight in form and colour, and heightened by his contact with fellow painters Matisse and Bonnard (L. Banner, ibid., p. 20).
Henri Lebasque (French, 1865-1937) Villa Demière, Madame Lebasque et Marthe à la fontaine (Painted in 1907)
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