Wanda de Guébriant has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Between 1905 and 1914, Matisse passed most summers and one winter in the small fishing village of Collioure on the Mediterranean coast, approximately ten miles from the Spanish border. During his first summer there, his family initially lived in a small pension, La Mére Rosette, before moving into an apartment facing the harbor, from which he painted various views from his window. From 1906 to 1914, the artist rented the upper floor of a small house complete with studio and skylight. The summers spent at Collioure were integral to the formation of Matisse's early style. It is there that the artist's experimentation with form and color alongside André Derain flowered into Fauvism. Vue de Collioure was painted between the second and third summers spent in the town and is a superb example of Matisse's Fauvist vision.
Matisse had been working in the Neo-Impressionist manner of Georges Seurat when he first arrived in Collioure in 1905, experimenting with small touches of pure pigment in a regular arrangement. He found the technique limiting--he did not like the way the brilliance of the individual colors blended in the eye to produce more muted tones. His ambition was to combine pure, vibrant color with dynamic brushstroke, in order to evoke a space that was at once descriptive and autonomous. He called upon his young protégé Derain to join him at Collioure. In a letter to the artist, Matisse wrote, "I cannot insist too strongly that a stay here is absolutely necessary for your work. I am certain that if you take my advice you will be glad of it. That is why I say to you again, come!" (in H. Spurling, The Unknown Matisse, New York, 1998, p. 316). Derain did not delay long in heading south, where he and Matisse painted side-by-side for the duration of the summer. Both artists broke free from the model of Neo-Impressionism and began to paint in a boldly colorful, psychologically-intense style, and were dubbed Fauves (wild beasts) at the 1905 Salon d'Automne by the scandalizing critic Louis Vauxcelles.
Matisse achieved his first breakthrough in Fauvism with landscape paintings. As he stated, "we were at the time like children in the face of nature and we let our temperaments speak..." (quoted in G. Diehl, Henri Matisse, 1954, p. 32). The fluid, open forms of the landscape motifs lent themselves best to his goal; they did not impose the descriptive restraints of the human figure or still life subjects. His landscapes from this summer show a great variation in brushstroke and surface texture, and successfully liberate color from description.
Back in Paris, the artist's rising reputation as leader of the Fauves was accompanied by increased sales. The success of his second one-man exhibition, held at the Galerie Druet in March 1906, enabled him to visit Algeria and to spend a longer amount of time in Collioure that summer, where the Mediterranean landscape continued to hold his fascination. The present work masterfully captures the brilliant colors and light of the Mediterranean through its free brushwork and robust colors. Large bands of saturated hues are applied to the board to suggest trees, houses, and sky. The red roofs are just barely suggested by strokes of red. The composition is entirely flat, as evidenced by the road on the right which travels up instead of back into space. It is difficult to tell from what perspective the scene is painted--Is the blue band of color at the top of the board meant to be sea or sky? Indeed, Matisse was evolving towards a flatter style during these years. Vue de Collioure is a splendid example of a Fauvist landscape, memorializing in the exact location where this style emerged.
(fig. 1) Postcard of Collioure.