Brame and Lorenceau have confirmed the authenticity of this work, which is registered in their Louis Anquetin archives.
The artists that populated Montmartre in late 19th century Paris found inspiration in its modern milieus—the convivial café, the seductive dance hall, the theatrical circus, the bustling street life. Anquetin was a leading figure within the Parisian avant-garde, accompanied by stalwarts of the modern movement such as Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Emile Bernard, in the café-cabaret circle centered in Montmartre. Anquetin was a true modern artist with an ever-evolving style. One such style, Cloisonnism, established by Anquetin and Bernard in the spring of 1887, was a direct departure from previous forays in Impressionism and Divisionism, with their focus on the brushstroke and heavy applications of paint. The Cloisonnist style was inspired by medieval stained glass enameling techniques and Japanese wood block prints, which were influential in works produced by a number of Parisian artists of the period (Brame et Lorenceau, Anquetin, La passion d'être peintre, Paris, 1991, p. 17).
Executed in March 1887, Avenue de Clichy, le soir, cinq heures is a vivid example of a work executed in the early Cloissonist style. The setting is bright and animated, conveying a sense of action and theatricality. The cropped female in the right foreground of the picture as well as the bird's-eye perspective project the viewer into this tightly framed scene. Anquetin's contoured figures are incised in the backdrop, cutting through the color and celebrating the supremacy of the drawn line.
In an essay in the 1 March 1888 issue of La Revue indépendante, critic Edouard Dujardin pointed out "a rather new and novel manner" that he had detected in the work of his friend Anquetin, who had recently made his debut in exhibitions of the group Les Vingt in Brussels and at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris:
“At first sight, his works proclaim the idea of decorative painting: traced outlines along with strong and fixed colouration. Outline, is quasi-abstract sign, gives the character of an object; unity of colour determines the atmosphere, fixes the sensation. From this derives the circumspection of outline and colour as conceived by popular imagery and Japanese art. The artists of the ‘image d'Epinal’ and Japanese woodcut albums first trace lines within which are placed colours according to the ‘colour pattern’ process. Likewise, the painter Anquetin traces his design with enclosing lines, within which he places his various colour tones juxtaposed in order to produce the desired sensation of general colouration. Drawing predicates colour and colour predicates drawing. And the work of the painter will be something like painting by compartment, analogous to cloisonné works of art, and his technique consists in a sort of cloisonnisme” (quoted in B. Welsh-Ovcharov, Vincent van Gogh and the Birth of Cloisonism, exh. cat., Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 1981, pp. 23 and 24).
The technique of cloisonné was widely used in Medieval France, with its great center in Limoges, and consisted of firing ground glass that had been placed in a metal framework that outlined the design of the object. The "images d'Epinal" were popular woodcuts whose tradition was also traceable back to the late Middle Ages, and were characterized by their primitive drawing and heavy lines. By the mid-1880s the influence of Japanese prints had touched most progressive artists, who were drawn to their unusual manipulation of spatial relationships and flattened areas of color.
Anquetin created three other versions of this subject: an oil in the collection of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art (fig. 1), a second pastel, and a gouache and watercolor.
(fig. 1) Louis Anquetin, Avenue de Clichy, le soir, cinq heures, oil on paper, 1887. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut. BARCODE anquetin1887