Omnipresent throughout Vlaminck's career, functioning as a sort of pictorial idée fixe, is his home town of Chatou and, in particular, its bridge. In art and in life this bridge had very particular associations for Vlaminck. It was not just a point from which he could explore his painterly investigations. The bridge was as vital to him as it was to Chatou itself. He later recalled his tutelage by the naïve painter Monsieur Henri Rigal of Chatou, whom Vlaminck visited every day at "his favourite haunt under the bridge." A contemporary critic, evidently recognizing the bridge's importance to Vlaminck, went so far as to call it "his atelier" (J. Klein, The Fauve Landscape, exh. cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1990, p. 134).
Following on from the coloristic exuberances of the Fauve period, Vlaminck found himself becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the seeming formlessness of the Fauve experiment: “Working directly in this way, tube against canvas, one quickly arrives at an excessive facility. One ends in transposing mathematically. The emerald green becomes black, the pink flaming red, etc. Winning numbers come up at every draw and immediate success becomes an impasse. Preoccupied with light I neglected the object...either you think nature or you think light” (D. Sutton, intro., Dangerous Corner, London, 1961, p. 15).
A route out of this dilemma was offered by the Salon d'Automne of 1907, where two rooms were devoted to a retrospective of Paul Cézanne's work. While Vlaminck, through his association with Ambroise Vollard, can hardly have been ignorant of Cézanne up to that point, the impact of such a large-scale exhibition was to be profound. The protean quality of Cézanne's art offered many avenues of exploration and Vlaminck, as is evinced by Le Seine à Chatou, absorbed primarily Cézanne's lessons on building form through careful planar construction. Vlaminck also initiated a more obviously Cézannian palette of blue, green and ochre, with which he was to continue to work in the following years.
(fig. 1) Le pont de Chatou, Chatou.