Ansas de Pradines, Toulouse
William Findlay Gallery, Chicago, Illinois
New York University Law School, New York
Sale: Sotheby’s, New York, February 11, 1987, lot 64
Hammerbeck Works of Art, London (acquired from the above)
Richard Green, London
Private collection (acquired circa 1993)
Arthur Pergament, New York
The present work represents a subject Martin returned to on a number of occasions: the view from his house of Marquayrol that overlooked the valley of Labastide-du-Vert, near Cahors, southwest France. The harmonious interaction of manmade habitations and their natural environment are typical of the sense of peace and contentment that Martin brought to his art. The broken brushwork dissolves the forms of the landscape, emulating the effect of a softening light; indeed, Martin attributed his divisionist technique to the study of nature: ‘My preoccupation with rendering atmospheric effects increased later, after three months in the country, face to face with nature. The natural light, now brilliant, then diffuse, which softened the contours of figures and landscape, powerfully obliging me to translate it any way I could, but other than by using a loaded brush – through pointillé and the breaking up of tone‘ (quoted in the exhibition catalogue Henri Martin, Musée Henri Martin, Cahors, 1992, p. 89).
In 1900, Martin purchased a large, seventeenth-century villa in the village of Labastide-du-Vert in southwest France. Marquayrol became Martin’s summer retreat, and it was here that he would retire from Paris between the months of May and November, revelling in the beauty and serenity of nature that the city lacked. The peaceful surroundings of Marquayrol were to become Martin’s preferred subject matter; as well as the landscape around the property, he depicted every single detail of the house and gardens – the round pool, the terrace, the vineyard, and the gate became recurring themes in his work.
Marquayrol was as important to Martin as the gardens at Giverny were to Claude Monet. It was here that Martin’s unique style, a synthesis of Impressionism with pointillist brushwork, reached its maturity. He used divisionist techniques to convey mood and the ‘diverse effects’ of nature. Taking nature as his new ‘model of beauty’, he repeatedly painted his beloved garden using varying colour schemes to characterise different times of day and year until the very end of his career. Later, Martin wrote: ‘my preoccupation with rendering atmospheric effects increased in the country, face to face with nature. Trying to capture its diverse effects, I was compelled to paint it differently. The natural light, now brilliant, then diffuse, which softened the contours of figures and landscape, powerfully obliged me to translate it any way I could, but other than by using a loaded brush – through pointille and the breaking up of tone’ (from a letter to his friend Bernard Marcel, director of the Marble depot and art critic, quoted in the exhibition catalogue Henri Martin, Musée Henri Martin, Cahors, 1992, pp. 89-90).