Louis Valtat (1869-1952) Catalogne, les tâches quotidiennes au mas 31 1/2 x 39 1/4 in (81 x 99.7 cm) (Painted in 1895)

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Lot 3
Louis Valtat
Catalogne, les tâches quotidiennes au mas 31 1/2 x 39 1/4 in (81 x 99.7 cm)

Sold for US$ 187,500 inc. premium
Louis Valtat (1869-1952)
Catalogne, les tâches quotidiennes au mas
stamped with the signature 'L.Valtat' (lower left)
oil on canvas
31 1/2 x 39 1/4 in (81 x 99.7 cm)
Painted in 1895


  • Provenance
    Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, 12 May 1999, lot 307.
    Acquired at the above sale by descent to the present owner.

    The authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by Les Amis de Louis Valtat. This work will be included in the forthcoming Louis Valtat catalogue raisonné currently in preparation.

    Louis Valtat was instrumental in the stylistic transition from Impressionism to the Modernist aesthetic, although perhaps unaccountably he has not received the same recognition as his contemporaries. His style was much admired by his peers and he was believed by many to be a natural precursor to the Fauves. 'Valtat belongs to a generation of artists in between the Impressionist and the post-1900 revolutionaries. It could have been said about him that he represents the indispensable link that accounts for the transition from Monet to Matisse' (G. Peillex, Louis Valtat: Retrospective Centenaire (1869-1968), exhib. cat., Geneva, Petit Palais, 1969).

    Valtat was born into a wealthy family of ship owners. He spent his childhood in Versailles where he was inspired to paint by his father, himself an amateur landscape painter. In 1887 he moved to Paris to study at the École des Beaux-Arts and soon after entered the Académie Julian to study under the Barbizon landscape painter, Jules Dupré. While Valtat certainly did not reject his many years of training, he developed a style of his own. He was able to incorporate elements of Impressionism and Pointillism with a foreshadowing of Fauvism. He evolved his own techniques and personal vision of each without representing any one movement. As Cogniat points out 'Coming at a period that often delighted in confusion, Valtat's art is an admirable example of integrity suffused with the joy of life.' (R. Cogniat, Louis Valtat, Neuchâtel, 1963, p. 31). 'He neither imagined that he could set up a personal formula nor invent a theory, and he preferred to accept what suited his tastes and his needs ... From the beginning to the end of his career he was simply, both knowingly and scrupulously, a painter of great integrity whose love of life and nature were embodied in his landscapes.' (ibid., p. 24).

    In 1894, Valtat developed tuberculosis and spent the autumn and winter along the Mediterranean coast in Banyuls (where he sought treatment), Antheor and Saint-Tropez, as well as in Spain. It was during a trip to Spain in the following year that Valtat painted the present work. He had often been inspired by Dupré's example to paint landscapes, and he remained true to this passion on his travels. The present work shows a scene from the bustling lanes of rural Catalonia. The vivid and intense tones of red, blue and yellow are complimented by the expressive use of thick paint and brushstrokes, and the impressive size of the canvas. Valtat's paintings of this period are characterized by a violent, intense color which clearly prefigures the Fauves. His care in portraying everyday subject matter and the play of light and movement meanwhile shows his debt to the Impressionists. Areas of the canvas are painted with Pointillist delicacy and restraint, but these are overtaken by the broader more emphatic strokes that recall van Gogh, of whom he was aware of in Paris.

    The relationship with van Gogh is notable. Both artists came of age as Impressionism entered the mainstream, and showed hints of its softer style amid bold and spontaneous colors. Van Gogh in particular began to use broad, expressive and dramatic brushstrokes that turned away from the earlier generation, making him the natural gatekeeper to artists of the following century. The Dutch painter embraced this period of change and 'approached ... canvases as though braving a battle that had been roughly thrust upon him ... without caution and without regret' (ibid., p. 23). Valtat studied Van Gogh's dramatic brushstrokes, particularly in his technique, as distinct from the Impressionists, of defining shapes and contours with a thick outline. Even with his intensity of color and brushstroke, actual forms began to appear more clearly. 'Valtat's brushwork is no longer just a series of light touches; it is more determined, graphically outlining and shaping the subject. The technique has developed from a spontaneous juxtaposition of delicate touches inspired by light and reflections into quite the reverse, and the structure is now deliberately put in evidence. This is perhaps the first stage at which one can see Valtat completely severed from impressionism and beginning to foreshadow Fauvism for which he helped lay the foundation' (ibid., p. 24).

    Valtat was a close friend of Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and often visited him at Cagnes. Renoir admired Valtat's works, in particular his mastery of color harmonies. It was Renoir who recommended Valtat to the famous art dealer Ambroise Volard, who was to represent him from 1900 to 1912. Valtat's first exhibition at with Vollard immediately followed one dedicated to Matisse. In 1905, Vollard arranged to have a number of Valtat's paintings entered in the Salon d'Automne, later famous as the first appearance of the Fauves, and the exhibition which gave rise to their initially derogatory name. While Valtat never saw himself as truly Fauve, it was from this point that his greatest recognition began. As Vollard noted, correctly, 'Patience, one day you will see that Valtat is a great painter' (quoted in G. Besson, Valtat et ses amis: Albert André, Charles Camoin, Henri Manguin, Jean Puy, exhib. cat., Besançon, Musée des Beaux-Arts, 1964, p. 9). 'Today, when the history of the development of painting is seen in its proper perspective, these lesser-known artists are regaining the status they deserve. Among them, Louis Valtat is one of the most outstanding, and it is astonishing that, in his lifetime, he attracted only the attention of connoisseurs rather than the universal recognition which he should legitimately have shared with his more famous contemporaries.' (ibid., p. 20).
Louis Valtat (1869-1952) Catalogne, les tâches quotidiennes au mas 31 1/2 x 39 1/4 in (81 x 99.7 cm) (Painted in 1895)
Louis Valtat (1869-1952) Catalogne, les tâches quotidiennes au mas 31 1/2 x 39 1/4 in (81 x 99.7 cm) (Painted in 1895)
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