- Maurice Denis
PORT DE CONCARNEAU
- signed Maurice Denis and dated 1924 (lower left)
- oil on canvas
Galerie Druet, Paris (acquired directly from the artist on 10th October 1924)
Charles Pacquement, Paris (acquired from the above on 3rd July 1925); sale: Galeries Georges Petit, Paris, Collection Charles Pacquement, 12th December 1932, lot 19
Mme Halphen, Paris (purchased at the above sale)
Throughout his life, Denis focused on the themes surrounding the Brittany coast and yacht racing at regular intervals, marking through time and place the various stages in the development of his œuvre. One of his earliest oils depicting a day at the seaside is Régates à Perros-Guirec of 1892 where Gauguin's influence is still very vivid (see: J. P. Bouillon, Maurice Denis, 1993, p. 34). Twenty years later he depicted in Le soir de Septembre and La Plage (J. P. Bouillon, op. cit., pp. 136-37) the insouciance and lightness of the French bourgeoisie before World War I.
The present work was painted in 1924, the year of the artist’s major exhibition at the Pavillon de Marsan in Paris. The painting is remiscent of Denis’ work from the 1890s as he revisits many of his favourite themes. The use of flat plains of colour, inspired by the Nabis, can be seen in the boats' hulls, the sails and the sky, where Denis used a palette knife to enhance the effect. This return to his Nabis roots is especially evident in the use of pink colour in the pier and the big boat in the center of the painting. It clearly translates the artist’s pleasure in rendering a typical Breton moment where sailors, women in traditional costumes and fishermen mix happily in the port.
Very early on in his diary, Denis declared his love for this part of France and his wish to settle there and hide from the superficial parisian life: "C’est aussi mon rêve la Terre Bretonne ; et ce l’est bien encore. J’espérais, après mon prix de Rome et mes cinq ans en Italie, connu déjà - bafoué, discuté, admiré - par mes toiles de sainteté, me retirer tranquillement dans le pays des saints et des vieilles coutumes... et pour ne pas être oublié tout à fait, chaque Salon m’aurait vu apporter ma toile, conception éclose à l’air parfumé de la Bretagne, de la terre où l’on prie " (Maurice Denis, Journal, 1884-1943, vol. I, Paris, 1957-59, p.44).