Jean Metzinger (1883-1956) Matin au parc Montsouris (Painted circa 1906)

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Lot 8* AR
Jean Metzinger
Matin au parc Montsouris

Sold for £ 62,500 (US$ 81,699) inc. premium
Jean Metzinger (1883-1956)
Matin au parc Montsouris
signed 'Metzinger' (lower right)
oil on canvas
49.7 x 67.7cm (19 9/16 x 26 5/8in).
Painted circa 1906


  • The authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by the late Madame Bozena Nikiel.

    Samuel M. Kootz Gallery, New York.
    Mrs. Bernard Gimbel Collection, Greenwich.
    Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, 12 November 1988, lot 328.
    Private collection, US.
    Acquired from the above by the present owner.

    Iowa City, The University of Iowa Museum of Art, Jean Metzinger in Retrospect, 31 August - 13 October 1985, no. 10 (later travelled to Austin, Chicago & Pittsburgh; titled 'Parc Montsouris').

    Matin au parc Montsouris is a stunning example from Jean Metzinger's Neo-Impressionist period, and illustrates the thinking that would help shape the Cubist artist he became. Having moved to Paris in 1903 the young painter quickly embraced the Divisionist techniques of contemporaries such as Paul Signac and Henri-Edmond Cross, who were developing the Pointillist style first pioneered by Georges Seurat. This new generation of Divisionists gradually enlarged the previously small dots of paint to the larger strokes we see in the present work. Here we see tiles of pure pigment, carefully juxtaposed to create a shimmering, vibrating surface of colour. Metzinger's precise application of cube-like strokes flattens the picture plane, causing the pavilion and path to tumble on top of each other rather than sitting in the mid or background. The artist captures the beauty of the day in the Parisian park with a joyous palette of vibrant lush greens set directly against deep mauves and soft lilacs; the joy Metzinger took in colour was more important to him than a lifelike rendering of the landscape, and the Neo-Impressionist style he had only recently discovered freed him, offering a departure from naturalism:

    'I ask of divided brushwork not the objective rendering of light, but iridescences and certain aspects of color still foreign to painting. I make a kind of chromatic versification and for syllables I use strokes which, variable in quality, cannot differ in dimension without modifying the rhythm of a picture phraseology destined to translate the diverse emotions aroused by nature' (J. Metzinger speaking in 1907, quoted in R. L. Herbert, Neo-Impressionism, (exh. cat.), New York, 1968, p. 221).

    Gelett Burgess could have been describing Matin au parc Montsouris in his review of the Salon des Indépendants exhibition in 1910 when looking back wistfully to Metzinger's 'mosaic' compositions of this period in comparison to the 'fierce' works of his Fauve association: 'Metzinger once did gorgeous mosaics of pure pigment, each little square of color not quite touching the next, so that an effect of vibrant light should result. He painted exquisite compositions of cloud and cliff and sea' (G. Burgess, 'The Wild Men of Paris', The Architectural Record, New York, May 1910, p. 412).

    The present work was painted circa 1906, concurrent with the artist's involvement with the Fauves, and yet remains a purely Divisionist work. Metzinger's stylistic shift during this decade was both marked and hesitant – having exhibited six paintings in the Divisionist style at the Salon des Indépendants in 1904, he exhibited there just the next year alongside the likes of Derain, Matisse, Valtat and Vlaminck, who would be labelled les Fauves. Matisse's ground-breaking use of colour in Luxe, calme et volupté, on show in this exhibition, had received much attention and undoubtedly inspired an energising of Metzinger's palette. Despite his affiliation, his style never evolved into that of pure Fauvism however, and his characteristic emphasis on structure remained. Although faceted, Matin au parc Montsouris remains a readable subject, the sweep of lawn clearly delineated from the path that weaves through the composition, the tree trunks crisply outlined against the flower beds which surround them.

    Alongside structure and delineation, Metzinger had long admired the mathematical analysis of nature offered by Paul Cézanne, a distilling of form which allowed his own style to transform into Cubism. He would go on to become a major proponent of the style, and is credited with unifying the movement in Du Cubisme, a treatise he co-authored with Albert Gleizes. The second wave of the movement, known as 'crystal' Cubism, was in part founded upon his increasing belief in the importance of mathematical principles in composition.

    Matin au parc Montsouris dates from the few years which Robert L. Herbert regarded as the height of Metzinger's Neo-Impressionist phase. The artist displays his love of colour in this tessellated composition which hums with the movement created by the paradoxically strict application of paint and careful structure. In its rejection of traditional perspective and experimental faceting of form it looks forward to Metzinger's proto-Cubist canvases and the movement he would become central to.
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