The story of nine works by turn-of-the-century French and Belgian artists who captured a disappearing idyll of rivers and coastline, markets and mountains, ahead of our Paris sale
Émile Bernard painted this view of Port Vathy, on the Greek Island of Samos, between June and September 1893. The trip was one of many the French Post-Impressionist and writer made that year. Bernard left his Paris studio to travel to Italy, studying the great masters in cities including Rome, Florence and Genoa. The artist stopped at Samos on his way to Constantinople, capturing the port of the small Greek island in the vibrant colours typical of artists of the Pont Aven school.
Born to a French-speaking family in Belgium, Théo van Rysselberghe visited France throughout his career. For many years, he travelled along the southern coast – to Cavalaire, Le Lavandou and Cap Bénat – with the painter Henri-Edmond Cross. Like many Impressionist painters, van Rysselberghe often worked en plein air, painting on strong sheets that could easily be transported back to his atelier.
The son of a ship’s captain, Eugène Boudin was born in the Normandy port of Honfleur. Largely self-taught, he worked directly from nature, painting the harbours and beaches of the northern French coast. Here the artist captures an inlet at low tide, placing the viewer at the centre of a rushing stream, beneath a brooding sky.
Louis Valtat initially visited the south of France to convalesce from a bout of tuberculosis exacerbated by Paris’s damp winter air. The landscape of the region, however, would become his muse. Valtat returned to the coast to produce some of his most striking works, painting alongside artists including Renoir and Signac, his audacious palette heralding the birth of Fauvism.
Throughout his life Narcisse Guilbert returned to his native Rouen as the subject for his art, its broad river and winding streets forming the inspiration for more than 2,500 canvases. Here, the artist has painted the town’s bustling marketplace, its cathedral — famously depicted by artists including Monet and Ruskin — looming in the background.
France’s rivers provided inspiration for some of the country’s most significant 19th-century painters — the Seine becoming the subject of works by Manet, Renoir and Monet, who famously chose to make his home near the river at Giverny. The dappled light of tree-lined riverbanks provided a perfect study for the Impressionists, who captured its fluctuations in short, layered brush strokes.
Pierre-Eugène Montézin painted landscapes throughout his life, inspired by the countryside surrounding his Paris home. This picture of apples being harvested is thought to have been made around the same time he was elected to France’s Academie des Beaux Arts, in 1941. Montézin died shortly afterwards, while painting in Brittany – his body discovered alongside canvases and a box of paints.
Much like Narcisse Guilbert, Albert Lebourg found inspiration in the architecture and broad flowing river of his native Rouen. After a brief period spent painting in Algeria, he became preoccupied by a desire to capture the effects of light — his preferred subjects including landscapes in winter sun, or scenes at the edge of brightly-lit water.