Henri Edmond Cross - Paysage au soleil couchant
Henri Edmond Cross
Paysage au soleil couchant
oil on wood 13,8 x 23,9 cm
Rau Collection for UNICEF
The enchanting little seascape was created along the Côte d'Azur, and according to the supplementary information provided by Patrick Offenstadt, it may have been carried out in preparation for a larger composition that has since been lost or was never realised. He is in fact unaware of any other painting directly related to this work. This circumstance makes it a rare treasure from one of the most important periods in the artist's oeuvre.
In 1891, the first of the now highly sought-after Divisionist works by Cross were created in the legendary Mediterranean light of Southern France, in Var, where Cross lived with his wife from that time onwards. He remained close friends with Paul Signac, Maxmilien Luce and Théo van Rysselberghe, colleagues who lived and painted in the immediate vicinity.
"Paysage au soleil couchant" adopts the neo-Impressionist palette, with its numerous nuanced shades of violet and mauve; together with the various blue tones, these stand in delicate contrast to the yellow and salmon tones of the horizon. The finely graded colour relationships, layered broadly or applied in dots on top of one another, provide the composition with its indeterminate transparency and its atmosphere of unreality: a dream of twilight, with the stillness of a sea before a wide horizon, directly after sunset. Both this poetry of colour and the asymmetry of the composition possess a great aesthetic charm. The elongated landscape format of the canvas underscores the topography of the coast, with the partially cropped dark pines in the foreground at left, as well as the linear silhouettes of distant islands and the two-dimensionality of the cloud formations. The pointillist technique is not rigorously applied here - as it is in Cross's larger-format seascapes (cf. "Pointe de la Galère" and "Les Iles d'Or", both 1891/92; Compin, op. cit., no. 30, p. 115, and no. 36, p. 125, each illus.). However, the entire planar composition appears concentrated and decorative in its formal simplification - regardless of its possibly preliminary character. It recalls the reception of Asian woodcuts among French modernists or the Japonism of the epoch. Furthermore, approximately 10 years later, no one less than Henri Matisse would become greatly interested in the art of Signac and Cross in Saint Tropez.
With a confirmation of authenticity from Patrick Offenstadt, Paris, dated 17 April 2013 (no. 13.04.17/377); the work will be included in the catalogue raisonné of the works by Henri-Edmond Cross.
Vente Atelier Henri-Edmond Cross, Paris, Drouot, 28 October 1921, no. 64 ("Soleil couchant au bord de la mer"); Galerie Kleinmann & Cie, Paris without year, no. 514; Weinmüller, Munich, 5 Dec. 1963, no. 1433 (? receipt existing in the Collection Rau, no catalogue available); Christie's London, Auction 27 June 1972, lot 17 C (aside from catalogue)
Francois Bazzoli/ Bernard Muntaner, Les Provences de la Peinture 1850-1920, Marseille (without year), p. 99 with colour illus. ('Paysage à proximité de l'Estérel'); Denis Coutagne (ed. Réunion des musées nationaux), Peintres de la couleur en Provence 1875 - 1920, exhib. cat. Marseille/Paris 1995, p. 272 with colour illus.; Rainer Budde (ed.), Pointillismus: Auf den Spuren von Georges Seurat, exhib. cat. Cologne/Lausanne, Munich 1997, p. 248, cat. no. 19 with colour illus.; exhib. cat. Japan 2002 (Kochi/ Tochigi/ Kyoto/ Tokyo), Georges Seurat et le Néo-Impressionnisme 1885-1905 (authors Christophe Duvivier/ John G. Hutton/ Nobuyuki Senzoku/ Keiko Sakagami/ Joachim Pissarro/ Ronald Pickvanze/ Jane Block/ Serge Le Bailly), p. 92 with illus.; cf. in general: Isabelle Compin, H.E. Cross, Paris 1964, p. 31 ff., p. 115 ff. with illus.
Possibly Prague May-June 1934 (Artistic Society), Katalog výstavy kolem Seurata: (Cousturier, Cross, Luce, Seurat, Signac), Alsova sin Umelecke besedy, Nr. 3 (printed Czech label on reverse of frame, typed, fragmented); Marseille 1994 (M.A.C.), Toiles solaires, paysages provencaux. Dix oeuvres de la collection du docteur Rau, p. 12/13 with colour illus.; Marseille/ Paris/ Lissabon 1995 (Hôtel de la Région Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur/ Musée du Luxembourg/ Fondation Arpad-Szenes-Vieira da Silva), Les Peintres de la couleur en Provence 1875-1920, without cat. no. ("Paysage au soleil couchant"); Cologne 1997/ Lausanne 1998 (Wallraf-Richartz-Museum/ Fondation de l'Hermitage), Pointillismus. Auf den Spuren von Georges Seurat/ Pointillisme - Sur les traces de Seurat, cat. no. 19 ('Landschaft mit untergehender Sonne'); Japan 2002: Kochi/ Tochigi/ Kyoto/ Tokyo (The Museum of Art/ Utsunomiya Museum of Art/ The National Museum of Modern Art/ Seiji Togo Memorial Yasuda Kasai Museum of Art), Georges Seurat et le Néo-Impressionnisme, 1885-1905