HENRI  LEBASQUE (1865-1937) Saint-Tropez, le hamac sous les pins (Painted circa 1923)

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Lot 30*
Saint-Tropez, le hamac sous les pins
Sold for £ 162,500 (US$ 213,828) inc. premium

Lot Details
HENRI LEBASQUE (1865-1937)
Saint-Tropez, le hamac sous les pins
signed 'Lebasque' (lower left)
oil on canvas
73 x 91.3cm (28 3/4 x 35 15/16in).
Painted circa 1923


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

    Private collection, Stockholm (acquired in 1923).
    Anon. sale, Moudon, Geneva, 1 April 1965, lot 97.
    Private collection, Switzerland (acquired at the above sale).
    Thence by descent to the previous owner; their sale, Koller, Zurich, 24 June 2011, lot 3222.
    Dr. Walid Juffali Collection, London (acquired at the above sale).

    Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, Exposition d'art français de Stockholm, February 1923.
    Tokyo, Asahi-Shimbun company building, organised by La Compagnie Franco-Japonaise, Autumn French Exhibition, 16 - 25 November 1927.

    D. Bazetoux, Henri Lebasque, catalogue raisonné, Vol. I, Paris, 2008, no. 1217 (illustrated p. 299).

    Proclaimed in later life as the 'Painter of Joy and Light' by critics and curators of the Louvre, Saint-Tropez, le hamac sous les pins issues from this mature period of Henri Lebasque's oeuvre and depicts two of the artist's most favoured subjects, his family and the sumptuous landscape of the South of France.

    Painted circa 1923, just a year before the artist moved permanently from Paris to Le Cannet on the French Riviera to devote himself to the subtle atmospheric effects and luminosity characteristic of the region, the present work was realised during a summer visit to the stylish coastal resort of Saint-Tropez. The resting figure is most likely to be Lebasque's eldest daughter, Marthe, and looks back to two earlier paintings completed by the artist circa 1915. Both compositions illustrate the same reclining figure and surrounding flora, although one depicts a second woman seated cross-legged at the foot of the chaise longue – most probably the artist's younger daughter, Hélene, or 'Nono' as she was affectionately known.

    As the art historian Lisa Banner has observed, it was typical of Lebasque to repeatedly paint the same subject in nearly identical scenes and poses, revealing an attempt by the artist to resolve certain compositional aspects or to perfect the effects of light and colour presented by the landscape and climate. In the present work, Lebasque refines the scene by dispensing with the sunhat which had lain in the foreground of the earlier works, as well as with the presence of the second figure. This process of simplification was consistent with his later style, in which he moved away from the more broken brushwork of his Impressionist period, towards an application of broader planes of colour delineated by sharper and more stylised contours.

    This purification of composition and technique cohered with the influence of Les Nabis and the Japanese print-making they so admired. Lebasque maintained close contact with the founders of the Nabi group, Edouard Vuillard and Pierre Bonnard (who would later become a neighbour at Le Cannet), and also adopted their preference for private, familial scenes: 'Intimism, a term which best describes Lebasque's painting, refers to the close domestic subject matter, supremely realised by Bonnard and Vuillard, in such a manner as to convey the personal nature of his response to the thing painted, and the universal familiarity of home and family. There is a sense of calm infused in Lebasque's paintings which celebrates the fullness and richness of life' (L. Banner, Lebasque, 1865 – 1937, exh. cat., San Francisco, 1986, p. 12).

    Lebasque achieves greater intimacy in his later works by focusing on the bodily expression of his sitters, rather than the depiction of facial distinction or individuality. Indeed, it is often difficult to differentiate between the paintings of his two daughters which are realised with equal tenderness, but often omit the distinguishing features of each girl. This device served to emphasise the universal nature of his compositions, which act as an archetype for familial love and contentedness. It was a tendency which became particularly prominent in his paintings executed after the First World War, during which Lebasque was a painter to the French Army. Following the loss and destruction he had witnessed and documented, the post-war compositions conform to a preference for universality and idealism as if he sought only joy and calm thereafter.

    Lebasque's fascination with the light and landscape of the Midi was prompted by his friend, the artist Henri Manguin, who suggested a trip to Provence in 1906. Lebasque would continue to return to the region throughout his career until his relocation in 1924, and indeed his fondness for Provence is revealed in the many paintings executed en plein air which describe its sunny climes and coastal environs. Bathed in Mediterranean sunlight, Saint-Tropez, le hamac sous les pins radiates colour and luminosity. By contrasting the warmer hues of pinks, mauves, peaches and lemons, which describe the sun-drenched beach and flushed cheeks of Marthe, against the cooler, green and bluey tones of the vegetation, sky and sea beyond, Lebasque successfully conveys the sensations of the scene. Here, the artist portrays his daughter enjoying a siesta under the cool shade of the palms and succulents, and evokes the setting with such intensity that we can almost hear the lapping waves against the beach and the rustle of the overhanging leaves in the sea breeze.

    In his bold use of unmodulated colour and the ensuing flattened picture space, Lebasque recalls the radical intervention of the Fauves at the turn of the century, and in particular the work of Henri Matisse. Along with Matisse, Lebasque was one of the founding members of the Salon d'Automne in 1903, and the friendship between the two artists only strengthened when they both made their home on the French Riviera. Lebasque's application of pure colour was however typically restrained and never betrayed the 'wild' characteristics more formally associated with the Fauve group.

    Although assimilating influences from a variety of movements and painters, Lebasque developed a style which was uniquely his own. His portrayal of family life and mastery of form and colour continue to touch and enchant audiences as much today as they did over 100 years ago, attesting to the prescience of a Salon critic from 1920, just three years before the execution of the present work: '[Lebasque's submission] is one of the best paintings in the Salon; one can already see it on the wall of a boudoir or a museum in fifty years as it is today' (Étienne Bricon quoted in L. Banner, ibid, p. 16).
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