Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
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Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

La cheminée du Roi, Marseille

Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
La cheminée du Roi, Marseille
signed 'Henri Matisse' (lower left)
oil on panel
12 7/8 x 16 1/8 in. (32.8 x 41 cm.)
Painted in 1918
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (no. 21253), by whom acquired directly from the artist on 9 September 1918.
Madame Vildrac, Paris, by whom acquired from the above.
With the Leicester Galleries, London.
Arnold John Hugh Smith, London, by whom acquired in November 1919.
Lefevre Gallery, London.
Mrs Jean Dreyfus, New York; sale, Sotheby's, New York, 10 March 1971, lot 46.
Anonymous sale, Briest, Paris, 15 December 2000, lot 66.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
G.P. & M. Dauberville, Matisse, Paris, 1995, no. 237, p. 668 (illustrated p. 669).
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Oeuvres récentes de Henri Matisse, May 1919, no. 16.
London, Leicester Galleries, Exhibition of Works by Henri Matisse, November - December 1919, no. 35.
Special notice
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Lot Essay

Wanda de Guébriant has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

Painted in 1918, La cheminée du Roi, Marseille illustrates the shift that occurred in Henri Matisse’s paintings during the final months of the First World War, as he made his way to the South of France, escaping the conflict just as it threatened to engulf Paris. Matisse was one of a number of artists who found refuge along the Mediterranean coast during this tumultuous period, with Paul Signac, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Albert Marquet all moving south for similar reasons. It was here, inspired by the vibrant colours, dazzling light and relatively carefree atmosphere of the Mediterranean, that Matisse entered a new phase of intense creative activity in his art, marked by a distinctive lightening of his colour palette and focus on new motifs. Although he settled in Nice, making his home in one of the modest sea-front hotels that lined the waterfront, the present work was most likely painted during a brief sojourn the artist took to nearby Marseille to visit his close friend, Marquet.

With just the briefest strokes of paint, Matisse conveys a sense of the everyday bustle of life that filled the quays of Marseille, as holiday-makers promenade along the seafront in their finery, carriages carrying goods from the harbour trundle past rows of barrels which have just been unloaded from a ship as boats bob at anchor. Bathed in the bright, luminous midday sun, the blue sky above completely devoid of clouds, the scene radiates a serene, carefree atmosphere. An exotic figure in the left hand corner of the composition, meanwhile, commands the viewer’s attention, his tall, red stove-pipe hat and golden tunic carefully delineated, allowing him to stand out amongst the more soberly dressed figures who stroll along the waterfront. The rest of the city is merely suggested by the multitude of roofs that are clustered along the opposite side of the marina, a technique Matisse uses to emphasise the action occurring in the harbour, identifying the port as the true heart of the city.

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