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La Seine près Les Andelys, matin soleil

La Seine près Les Andelys, matin soleil
signed and dated 'F. VALLOTTON. 16' (lower right)
oil on canvas
25 5⁄8 x 36 ¼ in. (65.1 x 92.2 cm.)
Painted in 1916
Galerie Druet, Paris.
Alexandre Natanson, Paris, by whom acquired from the above in 1917.
Maurice Leclanché, Paris; his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 6 November 1924, lot 99.
Galerie Druet, Paris, by whom acquired at the above sale.
Private collection, Paris & Geneva, by whom probably acquired from the above, and thence by descent to the present owner.
G. Guisan & D. Jakubec, 'Journal 1914-1921', in Félix Vallotton, Documents pour une biographie et pour l'histoire d'une œuvre, vol. III, Lausanne & Paris, 1975, pp. 126-127 & 161-162.
F. Vallotton, Livre de raison, no. 1089 (titled 'La Seine près les Andelys matin soleil, nuages roses a gauche frondaisons v roux, lourdes, à gauche premiers plans v j. eau bleue, rochers très blancs T 30’).
H. Hahnloser-Bühler, Félix Vallotton et ses amis, Paris, 1936, p. 311 (erroneously catalogued as 'no. 1088').
M. Ducrey & K. Poletti, Félix Vallotton, l'œuvre peint, Catalogue raisonné, vol. III,1910-1925, Zurich & Lausanne, 2005, no. 1151, pp. 645-646 (illustrated p. 645).
Paris, Galerie Druet, Exposition annuelle premier groupe, May - June 1917, no. 39 or 40 (titled 'Les Andelys').

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Annie Wallington
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Lot Essay

In 1916, when this exquisite view over the river Seine was painted, Félix Vallotton paid his first visit to the small village of Les Andelys in Normandy, near Monet’s beloved Giverny, where he would later return in 1924. A breathtaking series of pictures resulted from these two visits, one of its most remarkable examples encapsulated in the present lot.

Having attracted other artists – the most well-known being being Paul Signac - Les Andelys and its unique landscape made a profound and long lasting impact on Vallotton. Marina Ducrey described his infatuation for the village and the resulting series of enchanting landscapes using the following words: ‘Vallotton is won over by Les Andelys (…) his enthusiasm will be reflected in five landscapes painted in early October in Paris.’ The feelings of stillness and quiet magnificence conveyed by the present picture and the others of this series are communicated through a remarkably thought-out composition, typical of Vallotton’s oeuvre of this period, in which each natural element of the scene echoes one another in a delicate symphony of contrasting melodies.

As Ducrey points out following Vallotton’s notes in his Journal, the reflections of the hills over the river gently invite our gaze to glide above the sparkling water towards them and towards the cliffs to our right. The pink and white shades of the rocks interrupt the greenery of the hills and cliffs, providing a lighter touch of colour, echoed in the rocks on the far right edge of the scene. The roundness of the vegetation of the darkly lit island on the left counterbalances the lighter one of the bushes on the right; and the verticality of the poplars that of the horizontality of the cliffs.

The careful planning at the heart of this scene is a traditional component of landscapes produced by the artist in this period - Vallotton described them his Journal as ‘paysages recomposés.’ The same treatment is also apparent in the other works of the Les Andelys series - Souvenir des Andelys being another remarkable example: the echoing of the curvilinear lines of the riverbank, the correspondence between the round shapes of the poplars on each side of the river and on the island in its middle as well as the striking element of the soft line of smoke, inviting our gaze into the depths of the scene. As Bruno Delarue stated, while these scenes form recognisable landscapes of Les Andelys, they were likely painted not on the motif, but in the artist’s studio, prompted by a collection of sketches and different cherished memories of the artist.

The concept of landscapes painted in the studio whose overall feelings of quiet grandeur are conveyed through a carefully planned out composition was not a new one: the ‘paysage historique’, as it has been described by scholars, was perhaps the biggest legacy of Les Andelys native Nicolas Poussin, one of the most celebrated and influential French artists of the 17th century.

Vallotton himself was an admirer of Poussin: his influence on the Swiss artist is noticeable not only in the idea of building his landscapes through a meticulous construction, but especially in the overall mood conveyed: as Brodskaïa writes, ‘Les Andelys was the birthplace of Poussin, whose name would always remain one of the greatest for the artist (…) Of Poussin’s legacy, the main feature that remained was the eternal grandeur of nature’ (N. Brodskaïa, Felix Vallotton. The Nabi from Switzerland, New York, 2013, p. 141).

Works from the Les Andelys series rarely appear on the market, especially those painted during his 1916 visit (of which only five are known to exist) making the present work an exceptional opportunity for those fascinated by the originality of Vallotton’s oeuvre. A unique and rare testament to the artist’s fascination for his beloved Les Andelys, it encapsulates all his best qualities as a landscapist: his rich yet soft palette, the echoing of shapes and colours and perhaps even more importantly, the meticulous construction of the composition, conveying feelings of still and yet solemn grandeur – elements that will remain crucial to his production in the years to come.

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