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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Albert Marquet

The Port of Saint Tropez, 1905, Albert Marquet, during the height of his
Fauvist yearnings. Colors almost painful to look at.
Albert Marquet Self-portrait, 1904.
Looks like a fun guy.
As artists, when we think regarding various factors which have influenced what and how we paint, we often bring to mind various instructors, relatives perhaps, famous artists whose work we've seen in museums, childhood or adolescent experiences, even street artists whose names we didn't know or have long since forgotten. One of my own important influences as a teenager was an itinerant landscape painter from Florida who visited our county fair every year for a time. I used to stand behind him and watch for hours. I probably didn't know his name then and certainly wouldn't remember it after fifty years. Few of us, however would include on our list of important influences the name of a college roommate (except, perhaps as a bad influence). Around 1890, the French art student, Albert Marquet, born in 1875, near Bordeaux, went to Paris to study at the famed Ecole des Beaux Artes. His roommate, major influence, and good friend for the rest of their lives, was Henri Matisse.
Henri Matisse (left), Albert Marquet (right), ca. 1890-92. Can you imagine a sleepless night in a Paris loft, painting and talking art with these two?
Life Study At L'Ecole des Beaux Artes,
 1898, Albert Marquet
It's natural that Matisse would have exerted a strong influence on Marquet. First, if ever there was an artist with a stronger, more engaging personality than Matisse, he would require a warning label on his forehead. Second, Matisse, born in 1869, was six years older than his impressionable young friend. Marquet, for his part, came to Paris quiet skilled and likely already well-schooled in the basics of painting and drawing (the French Academics don't let talentless "boobs" into their Ecole des Beaux Arts; there's an arduous entrance exam involved). Otherwise, however, he was something of a blank book, one into which Matisse began jotting the makings of a Fauvist painter. Some art historians claimed the two influenced one another, but I find that hard to believe. There is Matisse written all over much of Marquet's work, especially his work from the 1890s. I can see not one ounce of Marquet in any of Matisse's paintings.
The Beach at Saint Adresse, 1906, Albert Marquet
The Artist’s Mother, 1905, Albert Marquet.
Even in painting his mother, the color
remains Fauvist rich.
During those early years, both artists studied under the Symbolist, Gustave Moreau, which means they also got fed a lot of color theory straight from Moreau's idol, Eugene Delacroix. Out of these and other influences, artists such as Maurice de Vlaminck, André Derain, Othon Friesz, Georges Rouault, Raoul Dufy, Henri Manguin, Georges Braque, Louis Valtat, Georges Dufrénoy and Jean Puy, began to see and use color in a manner unlike their instructors, colleagues, and virtually everyone else alive at the time, had ever seen before. Major colors were heightened, minor colors were subdued using complimentary opposites, or minimized, or simply eliminated altogether. Black, grays, and browns were abandoned. Colors seemed chosen for their shock value more than anything else (which was sometimes the case). The art critics were almost universal in their dislike of such works. Academics and buyers could hardly stand to even look at them. Some critic labeled such art and artists "Fauves" (wild beasts) and it stuck...not without good reason.

Le Pont de Poissy, 1925, Albert Marquet
Swan Island, 1919, Albert Marquet. Ten years
later, Fauvist color seems a thing of the past.
Insofar as Albert Marquet was concerned, the label may have stuck but his Fauvist colors did not. Though remaining close friends with Matisse and his followers, Marquet veered off as time passed. His painting technique and style remained much the same as theirs but his colors were, if not quite natural, then certainly not exclamatory. Like many of the Fauvists, Marquet tended to prefer landscapes, occasionally intermixed with the a few interiors, still-lifes, nudes, and portraits. But it was the landscape that most fascinated him, especially port scenes, mostly Marseilles in France and Algiers in Africa. Despite his de-emphasis of Fauvism in his mature work, that's not to say his palette became pallid. In fact, he maintained total control, choosing his colors for various works from soft and natural to just short of garish (bottom).

Venise. La Voile Jeune, 1936, Albert Marquet
View from the Balcony, 1945, 
Albert Marquet, one of his last paintings.
After 1907 Marquet traveled broadly. For many years he divided his time between his Paris studio and Algiers in North Africa (then a French colony). In Paris he painted a lot of bridges and street scenes, often viewed from high above. In Algiers, he gravitated toward harbor and beach scenes. Later, in the 1930s, Marquet broadened his travels to include Naples, Venice, Sweden, and Germany. His paintings derived from these cities are among his best. Shortly after the end of WW II, Marquet suffered a sudden gall bladder attack. Doctors subsequently diagnosed him with incurable Cancer. He died in 1947 at the age of seventy-two. Henri Matisse died seven years later in 1954.

The New Bridge at Night, 1935, Albert Marquet. Though painted long after his days
as a Fauvist, his "New" Bridge (built in 1578) features some of the most
intense color Marquet had used in years.


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