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Paysage à Marcillac

Paysage à Marcillac
signed and dated 'F. VALLOTTON. 25' (lower left)
oil on canvas
36 ¼ x 28 7⁄8 in. (92 x 73 cm.)
Painted in 1925
Galerie Druet, Paris (no. 11224), by whom acquired from the artist in 1925.
Armand Dorville, Paris, by whom acquired from the above on 8 January 1926.
Mme Georges Cahen-Salvador, Paris, by descent from the above, circa 1941.
Gilbert Cahen-Salvador, Paris, by descent from the above, circa 1963 and until 1988.
Private collection, Paris.
Acquired from the above on 26 April 1989, and thence by descent to the present owners.
The artist's handlist, LRZ no. 1559.
H. Hahnloser-Bühler, Félix Vallotton et ses amis, Paris, 1936, no. 1559, p. 335 (illustrated fig. 134, pl. 85).
R. Koella, Das Bild der Landschaft im Schaffen von Félix Vallotton, Wesen - Bedeutung - Entwicklung, Zurich, 1969, no. 303, p. 311.
M. Ducrey, Félix Vallotton 1865-1925: L'œuvre peint, vol. I, Le peintre, Lausanne, 2005, p. 310.
M. Ducrey, Félix Vallotton 1865-1925: L'œuvre peint, vol. III, Catalogue raisonné, Seconde partie, 1910-1925, Lausanne, 2005, no. 1660, p. 858 (illustrated).
Montreal, Museum of Fine Arts, The Time of the Nabis, August - November 1998, no. 153, p. 114 (illustrated).
Lyon, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Le très singulier Vallotton, February - May 2001, no. 99, p. 176 (illustrated p. 177); this exhibition later travelled to Marseille, Musée Cantini, June - September 2001.
Further details
This work has been requested for the upcoming exhibition Félix Vallotton. A Retrospective to be held at Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne, from October 2025 to February 2026, to mark the centenary of the artist's death.

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Keith Gill
Keith Gill Head of Department

Lot Essay

Painted in the last year of the artist’s life, Paysage à Marcillac is a testament to Félix Vallotton’s singular vision. At once a poetic elegy and a dreamlike expanse, Paysage à Marcillac represents the Célé river as it curls its way through the Cantal and Lot departments in southwestern France; in Marcillac, the river is framed by cliffs which the artist has painted like a dense fog. Slender poplars and lush vegetation line its banks. Behind, a house can be seen protruding through the foliage. This is a peaceful idyl, where only the faintest breeze blows through the leaves. What at first appears to be a relatively straightforward depiction in fact is more ambiguous as Vallotton has played with space and depth in his rendering of the background: by blocking the horizon, the mauve rocks recall a vast sky filled with clouds.
To create his landscapes, Vallotton would sketch the scene from life before returning to his studio to paint. It was not accurate representation that he sought but rather the profundity of an experience. As he detailed in his diary, ‘I dream of painting free from any literal respect of nature, I would like to reconstruct landscape, only with the help of the emotion it aroused in me, a few evocative lines, one or two details, selected without any superstition regarding exactness of time or light. It would be in fact a return to the “historical landscape”. Why not?’ (F. Vallotton quoted in M. Ducrey, Félix Vallotton, L'oeuvre peint, Le peintre, Lausanne, 2005, vol. I, p. 178).
Vallotton’s landscapes were strongly influenced by Nicolas Poussin who too created paysages composés. Ever attentive to his surroundings, Poussin would produce several drawings during his walks around Rome before returning to his studio to paint what he had seen. His paintings, in short, were ‘joint efforts of the intellect and the imagination’, an approach which Vallotton too implemented (R. Verdi, Cézanne and Poussin: The Classical Vision of Landscape, exh. cat., National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1990, p. 37). Yet despite shared formal strategies, Poussin and Vallotton were products of their own eras, a reality which wholly impacted the content of their respective work. Poussin’s compositions reflect the belief that landscapes should edify. Born just under three centuries later, Vallotton’s artistic practice emerged against a backdrop of foment in which artists vied to show the truth of the world. Art did not need to be didactic but instead could exist simply for the sake of itself.
In Paysage à Marcillac, Vallotton applied dense, solid colours to build up the trees and river. For the vivid greenery in the foreground, his touch was lighter and the colours more luminous. The contrast creates a striking sense of foreshortening and contributes to the utter stillness of the scene, an atmosphere that was characteristic of the artist. Indeed, scholars have likened the visual tension of Vallotton’s compositions to that established by Edward Hopper in his paintings and Alfred Hitchcock in film. For all their surface hush and serenity, however, these works ‘convey a potent mood of disquiet’; they menace and they awe (D. Amory and A. Dumas, ‘Introduction: “The Very Singular Vallotton”’, in Félix Vallotton, exh, cat., Royal Academy, London, 2019, p. 17).

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