- Maurice Denis
- JEUX SUR LE SABLE or PLAGE AUX LUTTEURS
signed Maurice Denis and dated 1912 (lower left)
- oil on canvas
- 65 by 105cm., 25 5/8 by 41 3/8 in.
Galerie Druet, Paris (acquired from the artist circa 1912-13)
Galerie Georges Giroux, Brussels
Private Collection, Germany Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1990
Mannheim, Kunsthalle (on loan 1985-89)
Lyon, Musée des Beaux-Arts & Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Maurice Denis, 1870-1943, 1994-95, no. 128, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
This work shows the beach at Trestignel, close to the house that Denis bought in Perros-Guirec, Brittany, in 1908. Yet, as Gilles Genty has noted, 'the significance both of this beach and of the bathers peopling it resides primarily in the utterly familiar gestures whose endless repetition has endowed them with a mythic resonance. The ocean and the shore on which the figures are stretched out are the spaces par excellence of a spiritual communion with nature and also the place where the stability of the shore, symbolising our earthly existence, meets the perpetual motion of the sea, a symbol of eternal renewal...
By placing the line of the horizon very high, so that the sea occupies only a narrow band enlivened by lines of foam, Denis allows the figures to take up much more space. The two reclining women in the foreground, whose elongated forms emphasize the length of the painting, together with the dance movements suggested by the bather in the background, indicate that Denis aimed to draw the viewer into the rhythmic pattern of the scene. The presence of wrestlers is by no means peripheral to the scene; the motif was one of Gauguin's favourites and... the main source for these figures is his Breton Wrestling... It is not, however, merely intended to be playful but, by its reference to an endlessly repeated repertoire of gestures, serves to define a douceur de vivre in the sense that Matisse gave the term at the same period' (G. Genty, Maurice Denis (exhibition catalogue), Lyon & Cologne, 1994-95, p. 284).
This work has been requested for inclusion in the Maurice Denis exhibition to be held at the Musée d'Orsay, Paris, and the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Montreal, from Autumn 2006 to Spring 2007.