PROPERTY FROM A EUROPEAN PRIVATE COLLECTION
59.5 by 73cm.
23 1/2 by 28 3/4 in.
Painted in 1905.
signed Vlaminck (lower right)
oil on canvas
To be included in the forthcoming Vlaminck Catalogue raisonné being prepared by Maithe Vallès-Bled and Godeliève de Vlaminck under the sponsorship of the Wildenstein Institute.
Galerie de L'Elysée (Alex Maguy), Paris
Barbara Thurston, New York (acquired by 1968)
Kootz Gallery, New York
Marlborough Galerie, Zurich
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1971
New York, Perls Galleries, Vlaminck: His Fauve Period, 1968, no. 11, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Munich, Bayerische Staats-Gemäldesammlungen (on loan 2001-02)
Marcel Sauvage, Vlaminck. Sa vie et son message, Geneva, 1961, illustrated pl. 23
Painted in 1905, Le Verger displays a colouristic boldness and gestural exuberance that place it among Vlaminck's most striking Fauve works. Executed in quick brushstrokes of primary tones, this composition displays an explosion of colour that earned Vlaminck and his colleagues the name 'wild beasts'. The fierce yellow, red and orange hues dominating the scene are combined with the cooler green and blue tones. Vlaminck, who later described Fauve art as a 'manner of being' rather than an intellectual invention, followed his youthful instincts in applying bold colour onto canvas in an almost violent fashion. Fuelled by an extraordinary and daring creativity and youthful passion, Vlaminck's production of this period forms one of the most ground-breaking bodies of work that changed the course of twentieth century art.
Discussing the early period of his career, the artist himself explained his creative urge and his passion for colour: 'When I had spent a few days without thinking, without doing anything, I would feel a sudden urge to paint. Then I would set up my easel in full sunshine... Vermilion alone could render the brilliant red of the tiles on the opposite slope. The orange of the soil, the harsh crude colors of the walls and greenery, the ultramarine and cobalt of the sky achieved an extreme harmony that was sensually and musically ordered. Only the series of colors on the canvas with all their power and vibrancy could, in combination with each other, render the chromatic feeling of that landscape' (quoted in Gaston Diehl, The Fauves, New York, 1975, p. 104).
This fascination with brilliant, vibrant colours is beautifully reflected in Le Verger, which probably depicts a scene near Chatou, where Vlaminck lived at the time. The artist rarely left this region during his Fauve years, preferring its surroundings along the Seine over the landscapes of the south of France, favoured by Matisse, Derain and Braque (fig. 1). Vlaminck moved to the island of Chatou in 1892, at the age of sixteen, and became deeply attached to this area. He drew inspiration for most of his early landscapes from this region, many of them characterised by the red-tiled roofs typical of the surrounding villages (fig. 2). It was in Chatou, the birth place of André Derain, that the two artists met by chance in 1900, and subsequently formed a partnership that became the core of the Fauve movement. Vlaminck and Derain shared a studio, and over the following years regularly painted together, often depicting the same views of the local landscape (fig. 3).
An expression of his youthful instincts, Vlaminck's passion for colour was, however, not unprecedented. In 1901 he saw the first retrospective exhibition of Van Gogh's work, held at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune in Paris, an experience that was to determine his artistic direction. In Le Verger, the debt owed to Van Gogh (fig. 4) is evident in the choice of palette as well as of subject matter. Writing about the influence of Van Gogh on Vlaminck's art of this period, John Rewald commented: 'In spite of all his admiration for all of van Gogh's canvases, he immediately recognized in him a formidable adversary. Here was a man who had the same aspirations as himself, who had translated in his work the same torments and exaltations, the same visions and impressions with which he was struggling. And he had translated them with pure colors and brushstrokes, so expressive that all his emotions seemed to lay bare his canvases. Compared with the pursuit of delicate light effects characteristic of the Impressionists, whose pictures Vlaminck had seen occasionally in Paris, van Gogh suddenly burst forth with an unprecedented intensity of color and design. Back in Chatou, Vlaminck began to assimilate van Gogh's lesson' (J. Rewald, Modern Masters, Manet to Matisse, New York, 1975, p. 116).