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Promenade des oliviers
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Henri Matisse (1869-1954)\nPromenade des oliviers\nsigned 'Henri.Matisse' (upper left)\noil on canvas\n18¼ x 22 in. (46.2 x 56 cm.)\nPainted in 1905
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notes

Wanda de Guébriant has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

Promenade des oliviers is a rare and historic painting by Henri Matisse, dating from the pivotal Summer in Collioure in 1905 which marked the beginning of his crucial Fauve period and led to his becoming one of the prominent leaders of the avant garde of the Twentieth Century. During this time, he abandoned the Divisionism that had earlier characterised his work and instead reached a more expressive and expressionistic means of depicting the world. This is clear in Promenade dans les oliviers in the way that the fields of colour have been rendered with a vivacious energy that recalls the pictures of Vincent van Gogh, lending the entire composition an incredible sense of vitality. The historic nature of this picture is underscored by its notable provenance: this was one of the pictures owned by Michael and Sarah Stein, two of Matisse's most important patrons and indeed friends. The painting featured in a number of photographs of their apartment at 58, rue Madame in Paris as early as around 1907, making it amongst the first works by the artist to enter their outstanding collection, which included numerous masterpieces many of which are now in museums throughout the world.

The rarity of Promenade dans les oliviers relates in part to the fact that Matisse returned to Paris from his 1905 stay in Collioure with only around fifteen canvases, according to Hilary Spurling's biography (see H. Spurling, The Unknown Matisse: A Life of Henri Matisse, Volume I 1869-1908, London, 1998, p. 327). Yet this was one of the most important watershed moments in his entire career, as he wrought himself with angst while plunging into the unknown territory of the then as-yet unnamed Fauvism with which he would come to be so inextricably associated. Indeed, it was in part alongside André Derain, his young protégé, that Matisse painted in Collioure. As is clear from Promenade dans les oliviers and other pictures of the period such as Paysage de Collioure, also known as Etude pour "Le bonheur de vivre", likewise owned by Michael and Sarah Stein and now in the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, Matisse was boldly dissolving the Divisionism that had hitherto dominated his work and was instead plunging into a more spontaneous means of rendering the world, featuring a far bolder, less restrained palette. The link between these works shows that Promenade des oliviers was one of the paving stones for Matisse's masterpiece of this period, Le Bonheur de vivre, now in the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia.

The revolutionary nature of Promenade dans les oliviers is reflected in the fact that Matisse painted the same motif in two identically-scaled canvases yet in two hugely different styles. As was recently demonstrated by the juxtaposition of both pictures at the beginning of the catalogue for the recent high-profile and acclaimed exhibition of Matisse's works held in the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Promenade dans les oliviers was painted with an expressionistic vigour in which any Divisionist rigour has been shunned, giving way to bold passages of paint; by contrast, in Oliviers à Collioure, the same scene is shown using the dabbed, loose Pointillism that reveal the artist's continued experimentation with Divisionism (see D. Aagesen & R. Rabinow, eds., Matisse: In Search of True Painting, exh. cat., New York, 2012, p. 4).

Matisse was clearly assessing his new developments in a highly analytical manner, creating two pictures in two styles and comparing them directly in order to chart his progress. While the Steins were to acquire Promenade dans les oliviers soon after its creation, Oliviers à Collioure would remain in Matisse's own collection for a long time - he was cited as the lender when it was exhibited in Alfred H. Barr, Jr.'s retrospective of his work held at the Museum of Modern Art in 1951.

Perhaps the fact that Matisse painted these two pictures of the same motif implies that he was still at the more experimental stage of his campaign in Collioure, before the firebrand Derain's arrival. At the beginning of his time in Collioure, the small fishing village in the Catalan part of southern France near the Spanish border, Matisse had developed various rhythms during his days, often travelling with his family to a nearby bay in order to swim away from the detritus that was flung into the harbour, including fish remains from the processing of anchovies. Perhaps it was on one of these walks through the trees that Matisse placed his wife Amélie for Promenade dans les oliviers and its sister picture.

It was in fact Amélie who had discovered Collioure. It was in many ways perfectly suited to Matisse's needs: it was far enough away from the rest of the art world to allow seclusion, letting him carry out his experiments in peace. At the same time, it was cheap, a key factor considering that Matisse was himself suffering from limited funds. The poverty and relative isolation of Collioure meant that it was essentially unspoilt. The only artist known to have previously worked there was Signac some decades earlier - and he claimed to have cut his own trip short because the locals suspected he was a spy when he was in nearby Port-Vendres, an indication of the attitude to outsiders held by some of the coastal Catalans in the region (see Spurling, op. cit., 1998, p. 300). However, there was space for children to play, and Matisse's innate respectability appeared to stand him in good stead with the locals.

Meanwhile, several of Matisse's fellow artists lived or stayed nearby, some in Saint Tropez. Aristide Maillol lived only a handful of miles away at Banyuls, and Etienne Terrus in nearby Elne. The presence of these artists within easy reach, and of some of the fellow Divisionists and Fauves at a distance that made frequent communication possible, provided a safety net to Matisse, who corresponded with his contemporaries frequently, often discussing his own frustrations. He had travelled to Collioure to engage upon an artistic campaign in which he intended to liberate his forms and colours from the stricter structures of Divisionism, as espoused by his friend and fellow artist Paul Signac.

Already, Matisse had been growing increasingly dissatisfied with his near-Pointillist output, especially after his exposure to the works of the younger painters Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck. Matisse, who had already met Derain and been impressed with his work and demeanour, recalled his first encounter with Vlaminck, whose paintings were filled with daring, glaring colour:

'One day I went to the van Gogh exhibition at Bernheim’s in the rue Lafitte. I saw Derain in the company of an enormous young fellow who proclaimed his enthusiasm in a voice of authority. He said, "You see, you’ve got to paint with pure cobalts, pure vermilions, pure veronese." I think Derain was a bit afraid of him. But he admired him for his enthusiasm and his passion. He came up to me and introduced Vlaminck... To tell the truth, the painting of Derain and Vlaminck did not surprise me, for it was close to the researches I myself was pursuing. But I was moved to see that these very young men had certain convictions similar to my own’ (Matisse, quoted in J. Elderfield, The 'Wild Beasts’: Fauvism and Its Affinities, Oxford, New York & Toronto, 1976, p. 30).

Looking at Promenade dans les oliviers, it is clear that Matisse would gradually come to espouse those 'pure cobalts, pure vermilions, pure veronese': there is a palpable sense of pulsing energy in the dabs and strokes of pure colour in the picture. These recall the influence of Van Gogh, the artist whose idiosyncratic pictures would come to provide the foundations of so many subjective means of pictorial expression. This painting, like those of Van Gogh, is concerned less with the objectivity and observation of more recent art, and more with sensation and emotion. Indeed, looking at the work, it recalls some of Van Gogh's own images of olive trees, for instance his picture showing the harvest, painted in 1889 at Saint-Rémy and now in the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo, Holland (F 587). The links with that picture may be more direct, as Matisse would surely have seen it earlier in 1905 when it featured in the Exposition Rétrospective Vincent van Gogh held as part of the Salon des Indépendants. Matisse himself was involved in the organisation both of the Salon, helping Signac, and of the Van Gogh exhibition itself, and therefore would have had direct exposure to this picture. Looking at Promenade dans les oliviers and the Van Gogh, one wonders if the central figures are not in some way echoes of each other, albeit one is a male labourer and the other Madame Matisse.

It is a mark of the artistic distance that Matisse had travelled in Collioure during his 1905 stay there that, only months after his return from the South of France, he was to participate in the Salon d'Automne alongside several other artists who were working in a similar vein, especially Derain and Vlaminck. Their works were placed together in Salle VII, alongside a more classical sculpture by Albert Marque. This juxtaposition would lead to Louis Vauxcelles' declaration: 'Donatello parmi les Fauves!' In turn, this would lend these bold artists their name.

Matisse's success as an artist would owe a great deal to the Salon d'Automne, as it was on this occasion that his work came to the attention of the Stein family. Siblings Leo and Gertrude would eventually, encouraged by their brother Michael and his wife Sarah, buy Matisse's La femme au chapeau. That picture, now in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, was later acquired from them by Michael and Sarah, who was known as 'Sally'. Indeed, it was due to their encouragement that Leo and Gertrude bought the work; Michael and Sally had more limited funds and therefore were unable to purchase the work themselves at that point. However, it must have been soon after that acquisition by Leo and Gertrude that they began to collect Matisse's works, including Promenade dans les oliviers.

From this point onwards, there were two branches of Stein patronage in Paris: the more Picasso-orientated Gertrude and Leo and the more Matisse-leaning Sarah and Michael at 58, rue Madame. Regarding their patronage, Matisse himself gave some insight into this more overlooked branch of the family:

'Madame Michel Stein, whom Gertrude Stein neglects to mention, was the really intelligently sensitive member of the family. Leo Stein thought very highly of her because she possessed a sensibility which awakened the same thing in himself’ (Matisse, quoted in A.H. Barr, Jr., Matisse: His Art and His Public, New York, 1951, p. 58).

The support of the Steins at this crucial juncture allowed Matisse to pursue these avenues of Fauvism and later to move beyond them. Crucially, their encouragement also allowed him to see how right he had been to follow this path. Contemporary photographs taken around 1907 already show an accumulation of Fauve paintings by Matisse on their wall, including Promenade dans les oliviers, revealing how speedy their dedication to the artist was following the epiphany at the Salon. Within the space of a couple of years they had acquired an impressive range of works: alongside Promenade dans les oliviers are others including the famous portrait of Madame Matisse dubbed La raie verte because of the bold green stripe that the artist used down the centre of her face, as well as a self-portrait believed to have been painted in Collioure the following year, both now in the Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen.

Those two pictures are in Copenhagen now in part due to the history of the Steins' own collection, including Promenade dans les oliviers. All of these works, together with over ten others, were loaned by the Steins to Fritz Gurlitt for exhibition in Berlin around 1914. However, the outbreak of the First World War resulted in these works remaining in Germany. Despite the efforts of Hans Purrmann, one of Matisse's students and admirers, to recover the paintings for the Steins, without his knowledge they were subsequently sold by the couple - on whose behalf he thought he was acting - to the Danish industrialist Christian Tetzen-Lund. Many of the works that entered Tetzen-Lund's collection would remain in Denmark in either private or public collections. Tetzen-Lund was a corn merchant who acquired an incredible array of works by a number of artists, in part working with the guidance and assistance of Walter Halvorsen, ranging from Paul Cézanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Van Gogh to Derain, Pablo Picasso and of course Matisse himself. Indeed, he appears to have owned around twenty of Matisse's pictures, including Le bonheur de vivre (see M. Hahnloser-Ingold, 'Collecting Matisses of the 1920s in the 1920s', pp. 235-74, J. Cowart & D. Fourcade, Henri Matisse: The Early Years in Nice 1916-1930, exh. cat., Washington, D.C. & New York, 1986, p. 264). Tetzen-Lund was also generous enough to open his home to the public on occasion, allowing them a rare glimpse of modern art during the years after the First World War, when international travel was difficult (see D. Aagesen, 'Art Metropolis for a Day - Copenhagen during World War 1', pp. 299-234, H. Van den Berg, ed., A Cultural History of the Avant-Garde in the Nordic Countries 1900-1925, New York, 2013, p. 308).

Despite the loss of many of their first tranche of works by Matisse including Promenade dans les oliviers, Sarah and Michael Stein remained close friends of the artist. They lived in Paris until the mid-1930s and were sympathetic patrons and supporters of in the painter. They were tireless in promoting Matisse's works themselves, even after their return to their native United States of America. They would often lend a number of their pictures, allowing their belief in Matisse's work to outweigh their attachment to them, sending them to exhibitions that granted him far wider exposure. This was the case already in the early 1900s: only shortly after Promenade dans les oliviers was painted, the Steins had to return to San Francisco following the earthquake there in order to assess the damage to their properties. While there, Michael and Sally had brought three works by Matisse, the first to be seen in the United States. Likewise, it was Sarah who introduced Etta Cone to Matisse; she and her sister would later assemble the famous Baltimore collection that, bequeathed to their native city, has such a rich array of pictures by Matisse.

title

Promenade des oliviers

medium

Oil on canvas

notice

Please note that the present work has been requested for inclusion in the following exhibition:

From Van Gogh to Kandinsky: Expressionism in Germany and France, 1900-1914

Kunsthaus, Zürich: 7 February 2014 – 11 May 2014

LACMA: 8 June 2014 – 14 September 2014

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts: 6 October 2014 – 25 January 2015

Please also note the amended last line of provenance:

Galerie Druet, Paris.

Michael & Sarah Stein, Paris, by whom acquired from the above in Spring 1906 (entrusted to Greta and Oskar Moll, Berlin, 1914 - circa 1917; allegedly confiscated by Fritz Gurlitt, Berlin, 1917 - 1919; reclaimed for the Steins by Hans Purrmann in 1919).

Christian Tetzen-Lund, Copenhagen, by whom acquired circa 1922; his sale, Winkel & Magnussen, Copenhagen, 10 June 1936, lot 6.

Carl Schepler, by whom acquired at the above sale.

Mrs. O. Hauch, by descent from the above.

Acquired from the above by the present owner.

prelot

PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION

signed

Signed 'Henri.Matisse' (upper left)

creator

Henri Matisse

keywords

Henri Matisse , 1900s, Paintings, oil, France, Modern, landscape

exhibited

Paris, Galerie Druet, Henri Matisse, March - April 1906, no. 11 (as 'Promenade dans les oliviers').

Berlin, Kunstsalon Fritz Gurlitt, Henri Matisse, July - August 1914, no. 8 (as 'Ölbäume, 1905').

Copenhagen, Ny-Carlsberg Glyptotek, Henri Matisse, September 1924, no. 25.

Stockholm, Föreningen Fransk Konst - Fransk Genombrottskonst Fran Nittonhundratalet: Bonnard, Braque, de la Fresnaye, Derain, Léger, Matisse, Picasso, Utrillo, March - June 1931, no. 101; this exhibition later travelled to Oslo, Gothenburg and Köpenhavn.

Copenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst, Henri Matisse - Four Great Collectors, January - May 1999, no. 49, p. 21.

department

IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART

dimensions

18¼ x 22 in. (46.2 x 56 cm.)

literature

R. Labrusse & J. Munck, Matisse-Derain, La vérité du fauvisme, Paris, 2005, no. 20 (illustrated p. 36).

Exh. cat, The Steins Collect, Matisse, Picasso and the Parisian Avant-Garde, New Haven & London, 2011, no. 111, p. 411 (illustrated pls. 366, 367, 370 & 371).

Exh. cat, Matisse, In Search of True Painting, New York, 2012, p. 4 (illustrated fig. 1).

provenance

Galerie Druet, Paris.

Michael & Sarah Stein, Paris, by whom acquired from the above in Spring 1906 (entrusted to Greta and Oskar Moll, Berlin, 1914 - circa 1917; allegedly confiscated by Fritz Gurlitt, Berlin, 1917 - 1919; reclaimed for the Steins by Hans Purrmann in 1919).

Christian Tetzen-Lund, Copenhagen, by whom acquired circa 1922; his sale, Winkel & Magnussen, Copenhagen, 10 June 1936, lot 6.

Carl Schepler, by whom acquired at the above sale.

Mrs. O. Hauch, by descent from the above.

Acquired from the above by the present owner.

special_notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.


*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.

*Note: The price is not recalculated to the current value. It refers to the actual final price at the time the item was sold.


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