Maurice de Vlaminck (1876-1958)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller
Maurice de Vlaminck (1876-1958)

Le Port

Maurice de Vlaminck (1876-1958)
Le Port
signed 'Vlaminck' (lower right)
oil on canvas
28 ¼ x 35 5/8 in. (72.2 x 90.5 cm.)
Painted in 1910-1911
John Quinn, New York (by 1922).
Edith Wetmore, New York.
Dalzell Hatfield Galleries, Los Angeles.
Acquired from the above by the late owners, January 1956.
“Exhibitions now on, Derain, Vlaminck and Burty,” American Art News, 18 November 1916, p. 2.
H. McBride, “News and Comment in the World of Art,” The Sun, 19 November 1916, p. 12 (illustrated; titled The Harbor).
R.-J. Coady, “The Indeps,” The Soil, A Magazine of Art, July 1917 (illustrated).
“Exhibitions Now On, A 'Modern' at Modern Gallery,” American Art News, 12 January 1918, p. 3.
J. Quinn, John Quinn, 1870-1925, Collection of Paintings, Water Colors, Drawings & Sculpture, New York, 1926, p. 15 (illustrated, p. 131).
F. Watson, "La Collection John Quinn," Le bulletin de la Vie Artistique, vol. 7, no. 4, 15 February 1926, p. 57 (illustrated).
M. Potter et al., The David and Peggy Rockefeller Collection: European Works of Art, New York, 1984, vol. I, pp. 244-245 (illustrated in color).
M. de Zayas, How, When and Why Modern Art Came to New York, Cambridge, 1996, p. 123, no. 125 (illustrated).
New York, Modern Gallery, Exhibition of Paintings by Derain, Vlaminck and Burty, November 1916, no. 20 (titled The Harbor).
New York, Grand Central Palace, Catalogue of the First Annual Exhibition of The Society of Independent Artists, April-May 1917 (illustrated).
New York, Modern Gallery, Exhibition of Paintings by Vlaminck, 1918, no. 125 (illustrated).
New York, Joseph Brummer, Exhibition of Paintings by Maurice de Vlaminck, March 1922, no. 22 (titled Sail-boats).
Vermont, Middlebury College, Middlebury Collects, May-June 1973.
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Lot Essay

This work will be included in the forthcoming Maurice de Vlaminck Digital Database, currently being prepared under the sponsorship of the Wildenstein Plattner Institute, Inc.

Fishing smacks, pilot boats, and other small sailing craft typically congregated at the site that most attracted Vlaminck whenever he visited the bustling port of Le Havre—Le Grand-Quai on the north side of the entrance to the harbor, renamed the Quai de Southampton during the First World War, to honor France’s British ally. Vlaminck regarded nearby Sainte-Adresse, a more picturesque destination, as too upscale, touristy, and pretentious. “But the port, the wharves, the small sailors’ bistros, and the constant comings and goings”—he wrote in his memoirs—“together create an atmosphere that I like” (quoted in M. Vallès-Bled, Vlaminck, Période fauve, Paris, 2008, p. 357).
Vlaminck had thrice painted Le Grand-Quai in 1906, at the height of his Fauve period (ibid., nos. 158-160). He exhibited annually during 1906-1909 with the Cercle de l’art moderne du Havre, which had been founded in part to showcase the paintings of the young Fauves Havrais—Georges Braque, Raoul Dufy and Emile-Othon Friesz. Between 1901 and 1905, Vlaminck and his close friend André Derain, as a band of two, constituted the “School of Chatou,” working along the Seine northwest of Paris. Their color-driven approach to painting caught Matisse’s eye in 1901 and contributed to laying the groundwork for the Fauve revolution that took the 1905 Salon d’Automne by storm.
Having taken lessons from the provincial naïf artist Henri Rigal, but otherwise self-taught as a painter, Vlaminck took pride in working as a primitive. “I’ve never thought about art, about classical art, Greek or Italian; with my cobalts and vermilions, I wished to burn down the École des Beaux-Arts and to render my impressions without any thought for what has been achieved in the past. Once colors were in my hands, I couldn’t give a damn about other men’s work; life and I, I and life. In art, each generation ought to start over again” (quoted in M. de Vlaminck, Dangerous Corner, New York, 1961, p. 11).
During his Fauve period, Vlaminck emulated only one artist: Vincent van Gogh—also an auto-didact, as well as an outsider with an all-consuming, inner-directed passion for painting—whose work he first saw at a Bernheim-Jeune exhibition in 1901. “In him I found some of my own aspirations. Probably from similar Nordic affinities?” Vlaminck explained. “And as well as a revolutionary fervor, an almost religious feeling for the interpretation of nature” (quoted in J. Freeman, The Fauve Landscape, exh. cat., The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1990, p. 21).
In late 1907 Vlaminck accorded precedence to another exemplary painter, recently deceased, who had worked during much of his late career in isolation, far from Paris, and revealed new ways of visualizing and painting the world—Paul Cézanne. The large memorial exhibition of the late master’s work at the 1907 Salon d’Automne generated a wave of interest among the Paris avant-garde, redirecting their pictorial priorities from expression through color to the construction of form. “Render nature with the cylinder, the sphere, and the cone, arranged in perspective, directed toward a central point,” Cézanne famously advised Émile Bernard in 1904. “Nature exists for us humans more in depth than on the surface” (M. Doran, ed., Conversations with Cézanne, Berkeley, 2001, p. 29).
“Paul Cézanne,” Vlaminck wrote, “opens a door to point out a road and invite you to take a walk with him into the world of art” (op. cit., 1961, p. 142). Renouncing the colorful surfaces of Fauvism, with its tendency toward decoration, Vlaminck sought to treat nature “in depth”—just as Cézanne had advocated. When he painted Le Port during 1910-1911, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque had already applied Cézanne’s ideas to the invention of analytical Cubism. While there is the suggestion of Cubist form in Vlaminck’s composition of the boats’ sails and hulls, as well as in the building facades in the background, he was simply adhering to Cézanne’s ideas as the master had spoken them, without inferring any more advanced, successive state of modernist development.
Vlaminck came to abhor all theoretical, anti-naturalist approaches to art, and by 1914 he had repudiated any aspect of modernism that he believed to stand in the way of an artist painting his genuine, immediate experience of the world. “I wanted to paint the object itself, with its weight and density… Instinctively, I love the light of the north which leaves objects as they really are; the light which shines over Flanders and makes the waters of the canals so cold and still, which leaves verdure green and does not try to improve upon the whites, blues, and reds of forlorn barges; the light which touches up nothing, nor embellishes by artifice the appearance of people and things” (ibid., pp. 15 and 79).

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