Painted in 1906, the year after the Fauve group’s notorious eruption onto the Paris art scene with their famed exposition at the Salon d’Automne, Albert Marquet’s Paris, Quai du Louvre, Soleil d’hiver belongs to the artist’s great series of cityscapes in which he captured panoramic vistas of the French capital. In 1905, Marquet rented an apartment on the Quai du Louvre, a stretch of road along the Right Bank of the Seine, between the Pont Neuf and the Louvre. From his rooms on the seventh floor, Marquet had a sweeping view of the river, the tip of the Île de la Cité, the Left Bank and the Eiffel Tower beyond, providing him an endlessly changing subject to which he continued to return over the course of his career.
Capturing the glistening rain-soaked boulevard filled with people and traffic, the bare trees, and the silvery stretch of the Seine disappearing into the distance, this painting sees Marquet marry his distinct Fauve colour palette with his abiding interest in compositional structure. As the vivid orange rimmed disc of the sun sets, illuminating the Paris skyline, particularly the dome of the Invalides, into a kaleidoscopic assortment of pinks, orange, lilacs and turquoise, the city’s topography is likewise thrown into spectacular relief.
The plunging perspective and elevated viewpoint that Marquet has utilised in the present composition was an abiding characteristic of his work. Whilst artists such as André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck painted views with colours based little in reality, Marquet's palette allowed for intermittent explosions of colour but retained a firmer grounding in the view before him thanks to his interest in compositional structure. In the present work, Marquet has used his signature strokes – bold, instinctive lines and daring ‘slabs’ of unmixed pigment that create a strong sense of perspective and the panoramic sweep of the city that so defines this series.
Marquet’s Paris series clearly follows in the footsteps of his Impressionist predecessors, particularly Claude Monet and Camille Pissarro, who had similarly painted Paris, and also London, with a dedicated, serial approach, seeking to capture the temporal effects of light and weather on a fixed vista. As the Impressionists had done before him, Marquet returned to the same motifs at different times of day and at different times of year, charting the changes in light and atmosphere upon the city. At the same time that Marquet painted the present work in 1906, his Fauvist colleague Derain was in London, painting views of the Thames, similarly testing their newly forged pictorial idiom, experimenting with colour as they captured the world around them.
Although the city was a subject which would occupy Marquet throughout his life, it was of particular importance in his early career between 1900 and 1910, when he spent little time outside the capital. He found his inspiration in the river Seine, its quais, bridges and crowds, whether in sunshine, rain, summer or winter, and it was against this paradoxically familiar and traditional background that he executed the most innovative works in his oeuvre. In addition, the harbours of Normandy would likewise provide endless inspiration.