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Maurice Denis (1870-1943)
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Maurice Denis (1870-1943)

Maternité à la pomme

Details
Maurice Denis (1870-1943)
Maternité à la pomme
signed with artist's monogram and dated 'MAVD 97' (lower right)
oil on canvas
27 1/4 x 20 in. (69.2 x 51 cm.)
Painted in 1897
Provenance
Dr. Faber, Copenhagen, by whom acquired from the artist in 1897.
Mogens Ballin, Denmark.
Galerie Cassirer, Berlin, acquired from the above in 1904 and the sold the same day to Count Kessler, Weimar; his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 16 May 1908, lot 14 (illustrated).
Galerie Druet, Paris (no. 4584), acquired at the above sale.
Henry Aubry, Paris, by whom acquired from the above, until at least 1924, and thence by descent.
Hopkins Gallery, Paris.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1988.
Literature
R. Rosenblum (ed.), The Frances and John L. Loeb Collection, London, 1982, no. 47 (illustrated).
J.-P. Bouillon, Maurice Denis, Geneva, 1993, p. 77 (illustrated).
C. Zappia, Maurice Denis e l'Italia, Perugia, 2001, no. 4 (illustrated).
C. Jeancolas, La Peinture des Nabis, Paris, 2002, p. 24 (illustrated).
J.-P. Bouillon, Maurice Denis, Le spirituel dans l'art, Paris, 2006, p. 46 (illustrated).
G.T.M. Shackelford, The Romance of Modernism: paintings and sculpture from the Scott M. Black Collection, Boston, 2006, p. 57 (illustrated).
Exhibited
Paris, Galerie Vollard, Exposition des oeuvres de MM. P. Bonnard, M. Denis, Ibels (et autres), April 1897, no. 12 (titled 'L'Enfant nu').
Paris, Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs, Pavillon de Marsan, Maurice Denis, April - May 1924, no. 160 (dated '1907').
Paris, Galerie Daniel Malingue, Maîtres impressionistes et Modernes, May - July 1994, no. 4 (illustrated).
Lyon, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Maurice Denis, September - December 1994, no. 71, p. 201 (illustrated); this exhibition later travelled to, Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz Museum; Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery and Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum.
Weimar, Schloss Museum, Aufstieg und Fall de Moderne, May - November 1999, no. 59, pp. 128 & 133 (illustrated).
Krems, Kunsthalle, Renoir und das Frauenbild des Impressionismus, April - July 2005, pp. 59 & 103 (illustrated).
Paris, Malingue S. A., Maurice Denis, Au temps des Nabis, p. 67 (illustrated p. 41).
Special notice

These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.
Sale room notice
Please note that this work has been requested for inclusion in the following exhibition:
Vienna, Kunstforum Wien, Japonisme - De l’inconnu au nouveau: l’esthétique d ’Extreme-Orient et le crepuscule de la modernité, October 2018 - January 2019.

Brought to you by

Michelle McMullan
Michelle McMullan

Lot Essay

Claire Denis and Fabienne Stahl will include this work in their forthcoming Maurice Denis catalogue raisonné, under the no. 897.0025.


Among the students at the Académie Julian in Paris were a group of young men, Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis, Henri Ibels, Paul Ranson and Paul Sérusier, who had tired of the academic realism that was being taught there. "It was the materialism of our teachers," Denis later wrote, "that led us, in reaction, to seek beauty outside nature, nature through science and art in theories" (quoted in T. Barruel, "The New Theories", Maurice Denis, exh. cat., Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lyon, 1994, p. 115). They were joined by Ker-Xavier Roussel and Edouard Vuillard, alumni of the Académie-Julian who were currently studying at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts under Gérôme. They called themselves Nabis, from the Hebrew word for prophet.

The synthesis of ideas that they were seeking came in the form of a small painting of a woodland pond that Sérusier had brought back from Pont-Aven in 1888. Painted under the guidance of Paul Gauguin, it showed a landscape reduced to flat areas of colour straight from the tube and mixed only with white. It became known among the Nabis as Le Talisman. Denis was not yet twenty years old when in 1890 he wrote in "Definition du Néo-traditionnisme," his first published article, one of the most famous statements about modern art: "Remember that a painting, before it is a war horse, a female nude or some little genre scene, is primarily a flat surface covered with colours arranged in a certain order" (quoted in ibid., p. 116).

Denis had been drawn as a youth to the paintings of the Quattrocento master Fra Angelico and the other Italian primitives, and as a devout Catholic, sought to revive the great religious subjects of the past and place them in a modern context. In addition to assimilating the stylistic advances of Gauguin, he also closely studied the work of Seurat, who, as Denis recognized, "was the first to try to replace a more or less fanciful improvisation, after nature, by a reflective working method." (quoted in ibid.). Denis purchased one of Seurat's studies for The Bathers at Asnières, and briefly used divisionism in his own paintings. However, Denis was ultimately more interested in the decorative aspect and the use of the arabesque in Seurat's compositions, and Denis called his own approach "Neo-traditionism," in order to differentiate it from the Neo-Impressionism of Seurat and Signac.

Titled Maternité à l’enfant at the back of a photograph, Maternité à la Pomme was renamed by Maurice Denis in honour of the exhibition around his work in 1924 at the Marsan Pavillon. It is part of a group of works that celebrate the long-awaited birth of Noële, after Jean-Paul’s death, the first son of Maurice and Marthe Denis.

This painting is a second more completed version of Maternité au bouquet de roses. In an elaborate construction, he depicts Marthe and Noële Eva Meurier next to Marthe’s sister. Dressed in black and shown in profile, Marthe’s sister is placed like the typical donors in the Madonna and child of the renaissance period. Jean-Paul Bouillon states that Denis is inspired by the composition of La Vierge et L’enfant with the young Jean-Baptiste by Botticcelli, in the collection of the Musée du Louvre, and from which he possessed the reproduction. This reproduction is found in the back plan of one of his maternities from the same year, L’enfant au pantalon bleu housed in the Musée d’Orsay.

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