HENRI MARTIN (1860-1943) Pont de Labastide du Vert au clair de lune
Lot 70
HENRI MARTIN
(1860-1943)
Pont de Labastide du Vert au clair de lune
Sold for £ 118,750 (US$ 150,832) inc. premium

Lot Details
PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE BELGIAN COLLECTION
HENRI MARTIN (1860-1943)
Pont de Labastide du Vert au clair de lune
signed 'Henri Martin' (lower right)
oil on canvas
68.4 x 91.2cm (26 15/16 x 35 7/8in).

Footnotes

  • The authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by the late Monsieur Cyrille Martin. Madame Marie-Anne Destrebecq-Martin will include this work in the forthcoming Henri Martin catalogue raisonné, currently being prepared.

    Provenance
    Private collection, France.
    Private collection, Paris; their sale, Sotheby's, Paris, 1 June 2016, lot 41.
    Private collection, Belgium (acquired at the above sale).

    '[It is] a poetical evocation hued by a thousand colours which can undoubtedly be called a work of art' (J. Martin-Ferrières, Henri Martin, Paris, 1967, p. 35)

    The present work shows one of Henri Martin's most iconic scenes, the bridge in the village of Labastide-du-Vert. It was in this small community in the Lot valley, Southern France, that Martin produced some of his greatest works. The tranquil village and idyllic rolling countryside that surrounded the artist's overlooking house, Marquayrol, presented ample inspiration for Martin who would become one of the most quintessential and significant Post-Impressionists.

    Born in Toulouse in 1860 and after persuading his father to allow him to pursue his dream of being an artist, Martin attended a number of respectable artistic institutions. Following two years under the guidance of Jules Garipuy at the Toulouse School of Fine Arts, Martin was offered a scholarship in 1879 to study in the studio of Jean-Paul Laurens in Paris; a moment that is testimony to his natural ability from an early age. He received his first medal at the Paris Salon in 1883, holding his first exhibition three years later. It is in the subsequent stage of Martin's career that we see a monumental shift in the artist's style and it is this period that largely sculpted his success.

    As a result of his Paris Salon medal a year earlier, Martin travelled on tour to Italy. Here, masters such as Giotto and Masaccio became the subject of his studies and attention. The resulting creative development is the growth of Martin's acute appreciation for natural light and the influence it has upon a painting; it becomes a major component to many of his works for the rest of his career with Pont de Labastide du Vert au clair de lune being no exception. Similarly, Martin's concentration on the bridge over the river Vert beneath perhaps comes as a result of this time amidst the majestic Italian cityscapes, with their classical architecture, the archways, waterways and connecting bridges.

    Upon his return to Paris in 1889, Martin found influence in the Neo-Impressionists with whom we can see clear similarities in the Pointillism style; a particularly identifiable link is with the work of Martin's contemporary, Georges Seurat. Furthermore, Martin employs the Divisionist technique that gives his works a somewhat ethereal effect. This is an immense shift away from his early use of a more academic technique that focused on idealised historical, classical and Biblical characters and events popularised by the Paris Salon, towards the more natural, agricultural imagery we see in Pont de Labastide du Vert au clair de lune and much of his oeuvre.

    The turn of the century marked a pivotal moment in both the life and career of Martin. Having grown increasingly weary of Parisian life, coupled with his shy, introverted character, Martin finally purchased the pastoral farmhouse of Marquayrol that sat above Labastide-du-Vert. Not only detaching himself from busy Parisian life, Martin also moves his style and subject away from allegory and muses, instead focusing on the natural light and rhythm of Southern France's rural communities. As with the earlier Impressionists, Martin sought to capture the emotional and atmospheric aura of the countryside, along with its everchanging colours and textures of the seasons. The artist's son Jac Martin-Ferrières commented on his father's deep admiration for Claude Monet, claiming they both possessed a sensitivity that allowed them to truly interpret nature and create their characteristically joyous landscapes. In addition to his experiences in Italy, another source of inspiration for the bridge's repeat presence in his oeuvre could be as a result of Monet's canvases of London in the early 1900s or the constant reimagining of his beloved Japanese bridge at Giverny. In Waterloo Bridge, effet de soleil - although Monet's canvas employs a much looser, less structured depiction of a larger cityscape - we most certainly can see the influence Martin might have drawn from the artist he so admired. The centralised arcing structure linking the edges of both canvases allows for two distinct planes, the sky and the water, to form. The centralised beacons of light set in the sky and reflections upon the water illuminate each work respectively and are filled with a multitude of hues. Aside from the use of colour and the simplicity of the forms, the rigor with which the canvases are composed is masterful, enabling an almost magical grandeur of colourful, illuminated surface detail through a network of tiny brushstrokes. The early evening moonlit sky broken by the poplar trees coupled with the window light shining out over the water evokes a somewhat mythical aura, alluding to the allegorical imagery of the artist's earlier work.

    Throughout the remaining forty-three years of Henri Martin's life we see him almost exclusively create scenes such as Pont de Labastide du Vert au clair de lune and the colourful, light-filled canvases of this period are thought to be some of his most successful works. It is in this phase that Martin finds his subject in the light-glazed rural landscape and forms his own iconic style; a network of quick brushstrokes with an expansive selection of playful colours became his instantly recognisable technique: 'If I look at a fragment of Henri Martin's canvas... I immediately recognise it... [Henri Martin's] palette is an enchantment' (J. Martin-Ferrières, Henri Martin, Paris, 1967, p. 42). Indeed, in the present work, Martin's Pointillist array of blues and turquoises, with contrasting pink strokes carefully surrounding the distant moon, beautifully conjures an early summer's eve. This Neo-Impressionist influence accentuates the gentle movement of the flowing stream, the quick, thin strokes of the brush allow the viewer to visualise the moonlit shimmering surface of the water. Martin's Pointillist technique imparts both an intense stillness and sense of tranquil order to this blue, green and ochre panorama.
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