Cyrille Martin has confirmed the authenticity of this painting.
Henri Martin purchased a house in Collioure in 1923. He knew the village well, as his old friend Henri Marre spent part of every year there, but it was not until he was in his sixties that he put down roots in this port town. Located at the foot of the Pyrénées near the Spanish border, Collioure had been a significant port in Roman times and remained of strategic importance throughout the Middle Ages. At various times belonging to the kingdoms of Aragon, Majorca, France and Spain, it had become a permanent part of France in the late 17th century, but later lost its military significance and lapsed into a peaceful fishing village. By the 1880s it had been discovered by artists and was to serve as the backdrop for some of the most significant fauve paintings by Henri Matisse, André Derain and Paul Signac in 1905. By the 1920s, this sleepy village had been discovered by an ever-growing tourist industry, attracted by its historic architecture, colorful fishing fleet and temperate Mediterranean climate.
Just as he had done at Marquayrol, his 17th century house in the village of Labastide-du-Vert in southwest France, Martin meticulously oversaw every detail of the renovations on his new house to his exacting specifications. He also rented a studio overlooking the port. For Martin, Collioure offered subjects that could not be found at Marquayrol or at St. Cirq-Lapopie and views from his studio, with the walls of the old royal castle, Mediterranean fishing boats and, unusually for the artist, human bustle and activity, characterize many of his most successful compositions of this time. The present work offers a view of the bay drenched in the southern light, the harmony of the village homes and fishing boats perfectly exemplifies Martin's interest in recording both the interplay of light on objects and the rhythmic orchestration of line and geometric pattern.
In Port de Collioure Martin revisits a subject that had captivated painters over a decade earlier. Though Signac once stopped by briefly on his way to Saint-Tropez, it was Matisse who really discovered Collioure as an artistic source in 1905, and returned for many years thereafter. This stretch of Catalan coast has been described by Hilary Spurling as "the point at which France came closest to North Africa. Traces of the Moors were everywhere in Collioure, from the construction of the houses to the crumbling fortifications that had once enclosed the town, and the watchtowers that still surmounted neighboring hilltops. The tall orangey pink bell tower (instantly recognizable in so many of Matisse's paintings) was a converted lighthouse, originally built according to legend by the Arabs" (in The Unknown Matisse, A Life of Henri Matisse: The Early Years, 1869-1908, London, 1998, p. 299).