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Raoul DUFY - estacade de la plage du Havre (1901)
Sa ville natale reste pour Raoul Dufy une source inépuisable d’inspiration tout au long de sa carrière. Les activités portuaires et balnéaires qui ont bercé sa vie fascinent le peintre. Le motif de L’estacade de la plage du Havre est présent dans son œuvre dès 1901 et se répète à de nombreuses reprises.
Dans ce tableau, la foule tournée vers la mer regarde un bateau qui passe au loin. Raoul Dufy organise sa composition grâce à la couleur ambiante du bleu. La couleur est utilisée pour créer la lumière et illustre la théorie de la « couleur lumière » chez Dufy.
Charles CORDIER - femme nubienne (1851)
A student of François Rude, Charles Cordier (Cambrai, 1827- Algiers, 1905) occupies a special place in French sculpture of the late 19th century. His 1847 encounter with Seïd Enkess, a former black slave turned model, determined the course of his career and marked the beginnings of his great plan to represent human diversity. His "anthropological and ethnographical gallery" project was fully in line with the emerging ethnographic approach and shared the objective of the abolitionist and protection of freedoms movements of the mid-19th century. Exhibited for the first time at the Salon of 1848-the year the Second Republic officially abolished slavery-under the title Said Abdallah, of the Mayac tribe, Darfour kingdom, the bust did not go unnoticed. In 1851, the State commissioned a copy for the new anthropology gallery at the Paris Museum of Natural History. Queen Victoria also bought a copy, as well as a cast of Nubian Woman, which were displayed side bu side at the London World's Fair. By 1858, copies of these two works had entered the collections of the Le Havre Museum, following an exhibition held by the Société des Amis des Arts.
While these first anthropological busts, like those of the Chinese, portrayed men and women encountered in Paris, in 1856 Cordier began going to his models as he travelled in Algeria, Italy, Greece and Egypt. The "ethnographical gallery" he assembled was thus not limited to non-Western types; there were also Young Woman of Trastevere and Young Woman of the Morvan, Gaulish Type, as weel as Type of a woman from the Paris area. Refusing to make moulds from live models, which he felt "weakened the flesh" and "dulled physiognomic features", he aimed to express the truth and beauty of the "types" encountered during his travels by means of observation and synthesis. A pioneer, he also explored the possibilities of polychrome using patinas and recently rediscovered materials like Algerian onyx marble, which allowed for new and often sumptuous finishes of costumes and skin tones.
A profoundly generous man, Cordier dedicated his art to promoting respect for others in their uniqueness. In 1862, he declared before the French Society of Anthropology : "Because beauty is not the province of privileged race, I give to the world of art the idea of the universality of beauty. Every race has its beauty, which differs from that of others races. The most beautiful negro is not the one who looks most like us". Such innovative language for 1862 has special resonance in Le Havre, from where, in the 17th century alone, nearly one hundred thousand blacks were sent to slavery. With the acquisition of these two busts just ten years after the abolition of slavery, the city deliberately confronted its past, while paying homage to the tragic fate of thousands of men and women.
Edouard DEGAS - lavandieres 'detail) (1870)
Two days following its inauguration by André Malraux, the Musée-maison de la culture du Havre received, on loan from the State by the Order of June 26, 1961, the small painting by Degas Washerwomen, along with four other artworks. A move that demonstrated the French Ministry of Culture's interest in the brand new establishment. The work was unfortunately stolen in 1973, only to reappear on the New York art market thirty-seven years later. Officially restored to France by the American authorities, it was once again entrusted to the Le Havre museum by the Musée d'Orsay, and resumed its place on the walls of the Musée d'art moderne André Malraux the year of its fiftieth anniversary celebration. This little painting is shrouded in double the mystery. Firstly, the period during which it had disappeared from the public domain remains and will undoubtedly remain fraught with secrets. But above all, due to this lengthy interruption, it was not included in the review that art historians have made of Degas' work over the past twenty years. The painting is listed in Paul André Lemoisne's catalogue raisonné on the work of Degas as Washerwomen, or Washerwomen with toothaches. Very different from the series of Women Ironing and the Washerwomen that the artist presented at the second Impressionist exhibition in 1876, or the later series on women exhausted by their work, the painting deposited at MuMa does not likely portray women at work, and even less women suffering from toothaches, as the woman holding her cheek might imply. So then who are these women? What is their connection? What are they doing? Their lowered eyes, focused on something hidden by a deliberately tight frame, seems to bring them together, without allowing us to guess what captivates them. The woman facing us (and can we be sure she is a woman, for that matter?) appears motionless, attentive to what the other, undoubtedly younger, woman is doing. Everything, in her slightly tilted face, concentrated and filled with restraint, seems to indicate studious application, modesty... is she a younger sister, a student? What is the young woman wearing? A headdress? Rather than a bandage? The only conclusions provided by the scientific examination are that this is the original size, so the painting is not a fragment cut from a larger work, and that there is no underlying drawing. So is this a simple head study, done in quick brushstrokes, or the sketch of a more elaborate project? Perhaps this small painting will reveal its secrets through new comparisons with other works by Degas or with the discovery of new documents that shed light on the master's life and work.
Hubert ROBERT - Incendie de Rome (1785)
When Hubert Robert (1733–1808) presented this painting at the Salon de Paris in 1767, it was greeted with enthusiasm by the public and highly praised by Diderot. Not surprising, since the work was both a consolidation of the painter's aesthetic choices and a response to the period's propensity for the "sublime". The fate of Hubert Robert was decided in Rome, where he lived from 1754 to 1765. His encounter with Panini and especially Piranesi changed the course of his career, making him not only a landscape artist, but also a painter of architecture, known as "Robert des ruines" (Robert of the ruins). For Robert, choosing the historical theme of the fire of Rome in 64 AD was an opportunity to accommodate his taste for the representation of architecture while bowing to the current taste for the sublime, a source of new emotions. Structured round a backlit effect that unifies the composition, The Fire of Rome portrays more than a historical event. It depicts the confrontation between two forces beyond human scale, as shown by the difference in scale, the power of history and the power of the natural element, which glorifies Rome even as it destroys the city. In this painting, Hubert Robert draws on the vocabulary of temple facades and arches so dear to him, making it an immense frame of human turmoil in the face of the historical event. The choice to portray only female figures fleeing from the fire adds dramatic power to the scene and stirs the emotions of viewers. Placing the ancient statue in the centre of the painting above the woman leading her child down the stairs by the hand symbolically translates the coexistence of two orders, the ancient world and the modern world—the divine world and the earthly world. Remarkable by its detailed study of the propagation of light, perceived in the many colourful bursts that highlight the stonework and the sculpted decor of the monuments, this work demonstrates great sensitivity to colour, a sign of the major changes to come in 19th-century painting.
Claude MONET - soleil d'hiver a Lavacourt (1880)
In September 1878, the Monet family moved to Vétheuil, on the banks of the Seine, around fifty kilometres downstream from Paris. The view from windows on the upper floor of the house looked southwest over a bend in the river. In the winter, the sun set behind the hamlet of Lavacourt, on the opposite shore. From his studio boat moored at the edge of the garden, Claude Monet (1840–1926) worked relentlessly on islands, the riverbank and the Seine, attentive to the changes in the landscape. While he was working on countless views over Vétheuil, the winter of 1879–1880, one of the harshest in history, provided him with a new subject and the elements for a series of twenty-eight paintings. In December 1879, plunging temperatures froze the Seine under a deep layer of ice almost 50 centimetres thick. When the thaw began in Paris, the situation quickly became catastrophic as the river transported massive blocks of ice and two bridges were swept away. Monet was fascinated by the extreme weather conditions and painted the daily evolution of this exceptional winter in Vétheuil, from December 1879 to March 1880. The snowy landscapes gave way to scenes of the frozen Seine, followed by the thaw. Fully bathed in a peaceful pink light, Winter Sun at Lavacourt was painted in the heart of winter. The composition is simple, structured around the high horizontal line that corresponds to the opposite bank of the Seine. The village in the background both separates and connects the two contrasting elements of sky and water. The long, even and parallel brushstrokes executed in the lower section of the painting accentuate the horizontal nature of the composition. The painting features a strong division, with unpainted canvas showing through in the reserved areas. The colour harmony of the landscape stems from the contrast between two complementary colours, orange and blue, in keeping with the laws of optics on the decomposition of light that have governed the work of colourist painters since Delacroix.
Claude MONET - le parlement de Londres (1903)
After a brief trip to London in 1870, Claude Monet (1840–1926) was invited back in 1887 by the painter Whistler. Captivated by the city, he decided to return the following years to paint some of "the effects of fog on the Thames". After four years spent observing the motif, Monet began a major series on the capital city in his Giverny studio. Through constant and simultaneous work on all of the paintings, he succeeded in completing thirty-seven canvases in 1904 with the aim of exhibiting them. London Parliament belongs to the series comprising around one hundred works in which Monet focuses on three motifs: the bridges of Charing Cross and Waterloo, as well as the House of Parliament. But the true subject of these paintings is the changing weather and light that bathe the monuments of the London skyline. This painting with subtle violet and purplish blue washes evokes Monet's passionate investigations into recreating the distinctive effects of fog in the English capital. Tinged with the memory of Turner's work, which Monet discovered in 1870–1871, it can be especially compared to Whistler’s Nocturnes. In May–June 1904, the Durand-Ruel gallery in Paris held a vast exhibition exclusively dedicated to these "Views of the Thames in London". Hailed as a major event by critics, the exhibition was also very well received by art connoisseurs. A few days after the opening, on May 19, a collector from Le Havre by the name of Pieter van der Velde purchased a painting from the large-scale series "Westminster Palace" for the considerable sum of 18,000 francs. Not only did he enrich his own collection, Van der Velde, with the support of his friends Dusseuil and Marande, two members of the acquisitions committee for the Le Havre museum, was likely a key participant in the municipality's negotiations with Monet in 1910. The name of the Impressionist master had been mentioned by the committee as early as 1901, but it was ten years before three of the artist's paintings graced the municipal collections: Cliffs at Varengeville, Waterlilies and London Parliament. Purchased directly from the artist for the symbolic amount of 3,000 francs, these paintings were added to the small collection of Impressionist works—a painting by Maufra and two Views of the Port of Le Havre by Pissarro—that entered the museum's collections in 1903.
Auguste RENOIR - portrait de Nini Lopez (1876)
Nini Lopez first appeared in the work of Auguste Renoir (1841–1919) in La Loge (The Theatre Box), painted in 1874. The young woman from Montmartre, cruelly nicknamed Nini-Gueule-de-Raie, or "fish face", is shown alongside the artist's brother. Although the artwork was immediately purchased by the art dealer "le Père Martin", Renoir, like many of his Impressionist friends, was experiencing serious financial difficulty at the time. In the spring of 1875, he moved into a new studio on rue Cortot in Montmartre. The painter liked the almost wild quality of the garden, where Nini posed for him regularly. Known for being serious and punctual, the young woman become the artist's favourite model between 1875 and 1879, appearing in at least fourteen paintings. The Portrait of Nini Lopez was painted in 1876, the year the artist outshone himself in breathtaking compositions such as The Swing and Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette. But at the time, Renoir was also painting numerous intimate scenes and smaller portraits for commercial purposes. The canvas purchased by collector Olivier Senn from Le Havre is very similar to a smaller work, Portrait of Nini Lopez (Blond Profile), in which the young woman is dressed in the same clothes: black and white bodice, green scarf and black ribbon tying back her hair. The model has the same soft features that give Nini her dreamy charm. The painting, which places great emphasis on the study of light behind the model, was undoubtedly executed near one of the windows that opened onto the garden of the studio on rue Cortot. Renoir was striving to convey the changing reflections of light on the human figure. A study conducted by C2RMF, the centre for the research and restoration of French museums, revealed that Renoir had taken a canvas already painted—a horizontal landscape—and turned it vertically before enlarging it with two bands. The artwork shows traces of this story—thick brushstrokes underlying the woman's face, an almost sketch-like treatment of the side edges—, and the ensuing freedom of execution lends an extraordinary modern quality to the work as a whole. In 1877, as Renoir's talent as a portrait artist earned him prestigious commissions with the bourgeoisie, Nini disappeared from his painting following her marriage to a third-rate actor in the Montmartre theatre, much to the dismay of her mother and the artist, who had become her protector, for they had both dreamed of a bourgeois marriage for her. But during the six years she posed for the artist, the young Nini incarnated Renoir's feminine ideal, filled with happiness and joy of life.
Auguste RENOIR - excursionniste (1888)
Of all the Impressionists, Auguste Renoir (1841–1919) was the only one who never ceased to paint human figures, and more particularly women. Although The Excursionist from the Marande collection has not been dated, it was likely painted around 1888, when Renoir sought to produce works depicting elegant young women in the costume of the day. The chosen models are shown playing the piano, gossiping, strolling in the countryside, and their company is reminiscent of the peaceful, happy atmosphere of garden parties in 18th-century France. The female figure is seated facing forward, looking at the viewer. The walking stick in her hand provides the only explanation for the title of the painting. The elements forming the landscape are very vague and appear more as coloured notes used to support the more pronounced colour of the figure. Despite giving the impression of being painted outdoors, it was presumably composed in the studio. A transitional piece, The Excursionist was painted in thin layers that allow for the subtle passage from one colour to the next. The Impressionist brushstrokes are practically gone, giving way to a smooth and fluid painting style. Typical of Renoir's portrayals of young women in the first decade of the 20th century, this peaceful and luminous painting appears to be the picture of happiness, as handed down to us by the Impressionist masters.
Felix VALLOTTON - la valse (1893)
The Waltz was one of the first Nabi paintings by Swiss artist Félix Vallotton (1865–1925). The Nabi movement, which lasted only a few years (1888–1900), advocated a new spiritual impetus by means of art, combining all forms of artistic expression. This painting depicts ice-skating couples twirling on the former Palais des glaces rink at the Champs-Élysées roundabout in Paris. True to the principles of the Nabi movement, which aimed to free painting from the bonds of realism and perspective, the work is done with an obvious desire to simplify shapes. Vallotton places emphasis on the image of the couples who bring the dance to life, as opposed to the individual characters, most of whom cannot be identified. The couples intertwined in sinuous ellipses and the multitude of tiny multi-coloured dots in the space around them contribute to the evocation of a night-time fairytale world in the glow of the artificial lights (the fine dust of ice lifted by the skaters and caught by the spotlights). While the composition has not abandoned all references to perspective, with the red line of the balustrade cutting across the upper right corner, Vallotton introduces highly modern elements of construction. Like Degas, the artist widens the frame of the scene by placing several protagonists outside of the field of view, particularly the young woman in the bottom right of the painting. Wrapped in her partner's embrace, of which only his hand resting on her shoulder can be seen, she gives herself over to the dizzying dance with joy and abandon. In a strong counterpoint to this sprinkling of light and waltz of movement, the figure of the woman skating, etched like a woodcut (which very probably inspired her), gives the scene an image filled with the joy of being alive.