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Les bords de la Seine à Nanterre

Les bords de la Seine à Nanterre
signed 'M. de Vlaminck' (lower left)
oil on canvas
15 1/8 x 18 1/4 in. (38.2 x 46.3 cm.)
Painted in 1904
Ernest Siegfried, Le Havre (acquired from the artist, 1905).
Olivier Senn, Le Havre (gift from the above, 1905).
Edouard Senn, Le Havre (by descent from the above and until December 1943).
Private collection, Paris (circa 1976); sale, Palais d’Orsay, Paris, 12 December 1979, lot 75.
Marcel Bernheim, Paris.
Anon. sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, Inc., New York, 21 May 1981, lot 545.
Acquired at the above sale by the late owners.
M. de Vlaminck, Portraits avant décès, Paris, 1943, p. 75.
M. Giry, "Le curieux achat fait à Derain et à Vlaminck au Salon des Indépendants de 1905 ou Deux tableaux retrouvés," Oeil, September 1976, no. 254, pp. 26-31 (illustrated in color, p. 28; dated 1905).
M. Giry, Le fauvisme: Ses origines, son évolution, Neuchâtel, 1981, p. 126, no. 22 (illustrated in color; dated 1905).
N. O’Laoghaire, The Influence of Van Gogh on Matisse, Derain, and Vlaminck, 1898-1908, Toronto, 1992, pl. 145 (illustrated; dated 1905).
A. Haudiquet, "Olivier Senn, un havrais, grand amateur d’art moderne," exh. cat., De Courbet à Matisse: Donation Senn-Foulds, Musée d'art moderne André Malraux, Le Havre, 2005, p. 22, no. 10 (illustrated in color).
M. Vallès-Bled, Vlaminck: Catalogue critique des peintures et céramiques de la période fauve, Paris, 2008, pp. 82-83, no. 17 (illustrated in color, p. 82).
Paris, Grandes Serres de la Ville de Paris, Société des Artistes Indépendants, 21ème exposition, March-April 1905, no. 4155.
Paris, Musée du Luxembourg, Vlaminck: Un instinct fauve, February-July 2008, p. 56, no. 4 (illustrated in color).

Lot Essay

Les bords de la Seine à Nanterre belongs to a group of pre-Fauve river scenes that Vlaminck painted in 1904 around his native Chatou, in the western suburbs of Paris. He and fellow artist André Derain had spent much of 1900 and 1901 traveling up and down the banks of the Seine, painting views of villages in the vicinity of Chatou such as Bougival, Marly-le-Roi, and Le Pecq, sometimes setting up their easels side by side. In early 1904, when Derain returned from military duty, the self-appointed "School of Chatou" resumed this practice, producing scenes such as the present canvas, which depicts the papermill in Nanterre which stood beside the Seine close to a sand quarry. Although visibly true to the location as it existed at that time, the bold brushwork and intense colors with which Vlaminck creates the composition manifest his progress toward adopting the anti-naturalist palette and dynamic touches of paint that are cornerstones of the Fauvist idiom.
Vlaminck exhibited and sold the present work at the 1905 Salon des Indépendants, where his eight canvases appeared alongside recent paintings by Derain, Henri Matisse, Henri Manguin, Albert Marquet, and Charles Camoin. Matisse had convinced both Vlaminck and Derain to exhibit at the Salon while visiting their studio in Chatou the previous winter. Commenting on his stay, the elder painter remarked, “I was not surprised by [their] painting, as it was close to the research that I myself was involved in. But I was moved to see that very young men had certain convictions that were similar to my own” (quoted in M. Valles-Bled, op. cit., p. 86). Matisse particularly noted the zones of expressive color that Vlaminck had liberated from descriptive function, a tactic fundamental to his own style. He could be describing the facades of the buildings in the present work when he states that “Vlaminck insisted on absolutely pure colors which obliged him to intensify the other parts of the painting accordingly” (quoted in J. Freeman, The Fauve Landscape, exh. cat., The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1990, p. 66).
The paintings of Matisse and his colleagues at that time encouraged Vlaminck in his belief that he was on the right track, but the work of these other artists had been edging toward the radical style of Fauvism primarily through the theories and discipline of Signac and the Neo-Impressionists, which held little interest for Vlaminck. The only painters he admired without qualification and emulated in his own work were Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cezanne. The increasingly radical quality of Vlaminck's brushwork and the vividness of his palette stemmed in part from studying the paintings of Van Gogh, which he first saw in a retrospective exhibition at Bernheim-Jeune in 1901. “In him, I found some of my own aspiration” Vlaminck recalled, “as well as a revolutionary fervor, an almost religious feeling for the interpretation of nature” (quoted in Freeman, op. cit., p. 21). The thick black outlines that he uses for emphasis in this work, the stark color contrasts, and the dramatic juxtapositions of dark and light testify to his admiration for the Dutch painter and works such as Les Alpilles, Saint-Rémy (Hulsker, no. 1745). Additionally, the energetic facture, which is especially notable here in the overcast sky and its reflection in the river below as well as the overall tone formally, asserts Vlaminck's knowledge of Cezanne's landscapes. The present painting appears to have been done in the late fall or early winter of 1904, not long after Vlaminck had attended the featured exhibition of forty-two paintings by Cezanne in the Salon d'Automne, which ran from mid-October to mid-November.
Chatou and its environs remained Vlaminck's preferred subject matter; when Derain moved to Paris in 1906, he lamented his friends' departure, declaring for years to come: “I had no wish for a change of scene. All these places that I knew so well, the Seine with its strings of barges, the tugs with their plumes of smoke, the taverns in the suburbs, the color of the atmosphere, the sky with its great clouds and its patches of sun, these were what I wanted to paint...” (quoted in ibid., p. 148).

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