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Canale Ponte Lungo

Canale Ponte Lungo
signed 'Henri Edmond Cross' (lower right)
oil on canvas
19 1⁄8 x 25 ¾ in. (48.7 x 65.4 cm.)
Painted in September 1903-March 1905
Galerie E. Druet, Paris (by 1905).
Alphonse Bellier, Paris (by 1964).
Anon. sale, Artcurial, Paris, 8 December 2003, lot 28.
Private collection, Monaco.
Acquired from the above by Arnold and Anne Ulnick Gumowitz, 2004.
F. Fénéon, "Les carnets de H.E. Cross" in Bulletin de la Vie Artistique, 1 July 1922, p. 302.
I. Compin, H.E. Cross, Paris, 1964, p. 218, no. 121 (illustrated).
P. Offenstadt, Henri-Edmond Cross: Catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint, Paris, 2022, p. 220, no. 206 (illustrated in color).
Paris, Galerie E. Druet, Henri-Edmond Cross, March-April 1905, no. 28.
Paris, Galerie Bellier, Les Néo-Impressionnistes, June-July 1961.
Paris, Grand Palais, XIV Biennale des antiquaires, September-October 1988.

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Lot Essay

In July 1903, Henri-Edmond Cross and his wife embarked upon a short sojourn to Italy, traveling from Paris through Lucerne, Milan and Verona, before reaching the fabled city of Venice, where they settled in to “a beautiful room by the Grand Canal five minutes from Saint Mark’s” (letter to Signac, August 1903; quoted in F. Frank, M. Ferretti Bocquillon, O. Westheider and M. Philipp, eds., Color and Light: The Neo-Impressionist Henri Edmond Cross, exh. cat., Museum Barberini, Potsdam, 2018, p. 249). During the following five weeks, the artist explored the city extensively, falling under the spell of Venice’s incontestable magic, filling his notebooks with drawings and watercolors of the canals and the shimmering reflections of the light on the lagoon. “Venice is like life itself, symbol of this wonderful existence…” Cross wrote in his journal. “And the admirably varied and lively architecture is like a prolongation of this intense life right to the sky, of this maximum of life given by the canals as well as the lovely water and its infinite reflections… It is a reversal of all our usual ways of seeing” (quoted in ibid., p. 122).
Upon his return to the south of France, Cross began a series of approximately fifteen canvases dedicated to La Serenissima drawing on the sketches and studies from his trip, which were filled with a new sense of light and color. In Canale Ponte Lungo, Cross focuses on a quiet, sunlit canal, devoid of traffic, the only nod towards human presence being the empty boat that bobs on the surface of the water along the edge of the canal wall. A notation from the artist’s journal, dated 15 July 1903, records the atmosphere of a similar scene, discovered as he wandered through the city’s waterways: “On the small canals—Silence—mystery—light…” (quoted in op. cit. 1964, p. 212). Bright sunlight dances across the row of buildings that line the edge of the canal, conjuring a myriad of colorful reflections that ripple along the surface of the water.
There is a fluidity and liberalism to Cross’s brushwork during this period of his career, which was a direct result of his attempts to marry the chromatic principles of divisionism with a new expressiveness that reflected the artist’s own personal response to the landscape. As he explained to Paul Signac in 1895, his ultimate aim was to have “technique cede its place to sensation” (quoted in ibid., p. 42). Here, Cross applied the jewel-toned pigments in long, rectangular dashes that shift direction as they describe different elements within the scene, lending the composition an internal dynamism and rhythm, as he attempts to convey a feeling of being submerged in the unique play of light that fills the Venetian landscape. By 1905, the Venice paintings were complete, and Cross chose to exhibit Canale Ponte Lungo at the Galerie E. Druet in Paris that year.

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