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Henri Edmond Cross (1856-1910)
Étude pour La baie de Cavalière
oil on paper laid down on canvas
10 5/8 x 13 7/8 in. (27 x 35.3 cm.)
Madame Henri-Edmond Cross, Paris.
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, by 1913.
Anonymous sale, Bukowskis, Stockholm, 27 November 1990, lot 62.
Anonymous sale, Galerie Koller, Zurich, 4 December 1997, lot 3118.
Salis & Vertes, Salzburg, where acquired.

I. Compin, H.-E. Cross, Paris, 1964, no. 158, p. 258.
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, H.-E. Cross, February - March 1913, no. 17.
Oslo, Kunstnerforbundet, Franske Utsilling, November - December 1916, no. 46.

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Lot Essay

This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Henri Edmond Cross being prepared by Patrick Offenstadt.

At the turn of the 20th century, the Mediterranean coast along Le Midi, the southern region of France, appeared to artists like a vast garden—a halcyon vision of Arcadia, the mythological home of the great nature god Pan, come to life. The Fauve sensation of insurgent colourism at the 1905 Paris Salon d’Automne suddenly drew attention to these rugged landscapes that seemed to drop off into the sparkling aquamarine waters between Toulon and Monaco, warmed in brilliant, crystalline sunlight under perpetually azure skies. Not yet known as the Côte d’Azur and still largely undeveloped, the shores of the Midi attracted an increasing number of Parisian painters, who made the area their next destination.

The landscape paintings of Cross often place the viewer within a stone’s throw of the motif itself, with the fore- and middle ground close up, even if the horizon is distant, or with the sea present, boundless beyond reckoning. In, Étude pour La baie de Cavalière, painted circa 1905-1906, the artist was likely standing on the footpath down to Pointe du Rossignol and Pointe du Layet, a favourite spot for Cross and his fellow Neo-Impressionists Theo van Rysselberghe and Paul Signac. The contorted shapes of wind-blown pines, the jagged rocks fringed with a froth of turbulent water, the sunlight dancing on the bay and the enigmatic silhouettes of the distant islands all combined to entrance the painters time after time.

The early Fauve paintings of Henri Matisse and André Derain were derived from the divisionist method of optical colour contrasts that Signac and Cross had cultivated since the premature death of Georges Seurat, the pioneer pointilliste. Indeed, in 1892 both artists had through their example helped propagate the theory and practice of Seurat's technique among the younger generation of painters, for whom divisionism became a significant starting point in the continuing evolution of modernism in the new century.

Cross developed a flexible approach to divisionism, as seen here, often employing rectangular strokes of pure colour, similar to the tesserae used in the creation of mosaics, altering their orientation in relation to the various shapes of the natural motifs he was depicting. His ultimate aim, as he stated to Signac, was to have "technique cede its place to sensation" (quoted in I. Compin, H.E. Cross, Paris, 1964, p. 42). Cross had come to understand that in painting nature, he was creating an abstraction—“Not the object itself, but a transfiguration based on a concordance of lines, a harmony of colour,” he wrote in a series of aphorisms during 1908-1909. "A certain beautiful form embellished by certain magnificent colours will interest us: it might be that it corresponds to a tree. Forms, colours make allusions to objects. This thing that I want to represent, is myself. These trees, these mountains, this sea, they are myself” (quoted in ibid., p. 53).

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