Description: Sur la Terrasse, Montparnasse
signed 'C R W NEVINSON' (lower right)
oil on canvas
24 x 30 in. (61 x 76.2 cm.)
Painted in 1925.
Artist or Maker: Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson, A.R.A. (1889-1946)
Exhibited: possibly New York, Leger Galleries, Exhibition of the works of C.R.W. Nevinson, April 1931, no. 2 as 'Terraces of Montparnasse'.
London, Imperial War Museum, C.R.W. Nevinson: The Twentieth Century, October 1999 - January 2000, p. 163, no. 109, illustrated.
Literature: C.R.W. Nevinson, Paint and Prejudice, London, 1937, illustrated as 'Sur le Terasse, Parnasse'.
R. Ingleby (et. al.), exhibition catalogue, C.R.W. Nevinson, The Twentieth Century, Imperial War Museum, London, 1999, p. 163, illustrated.
Provenance: The artist, until 1937.
Taff Fennimore, Richmond, Surrey, by whom sold to the present owner's family circa 1950s.
Notes: Dating from 1925, the present work depicts Parisian café society and was painted during Nevinson's most productive period. It was painted a year after Sunday evening, punts of the Thames at Henley (sold in these rooms, 30 November 2000, lot 35, for a world record price, £201,750, private collection) and both paintings display elements of Nevinson's return to pre-war post-impressionism.
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Although after the war, Nevinson had declared that he had given up futurism, Sur la Terrasse, Montparnasse is indebted to Nevinson's involvement with the Futurist movement, displayed in the striking diagonals shooting beyond the electric lights depicted. 'Electric lights recur frequently in Nevinson's work, as they did in the work of many of the Futurists; Nevinson recalls in Paint and Prejudice the first time he saw a light bulb when staying at an hotel in Paris with his mother before the War. Visually, he was clearly as much interested in what they hid as what they revealed, thereby equating them with a complex set of values' (R. Ingleby (et. al.), loc. cit).
The present work is readable across the picture plane, however, there is a fragmentation of the subject matter that is typical of Nevinson's compositions. The clustering confusion of heads that are crammed into the confines of the canvas convey to the viewer the cacophony of noise that must have risen from these outdoor cafés. The sharp diagonals descending from the lights are echoed in the roofs of the buildings and brought forward into the lower half of the painting, holding the crowd of people in a snapshot of stillness within their mass of sociableness.
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