oil on paper laid on panel
Upon his arrival at St Paul de Vence close to Nice in the south of France late in 1926 George Leslie Hunter sought a studio in which to work. He was told of a small studio attached to a hotel in the town, the Auberge de la Colombe d’Or (House of the Golden Dove). Although in the first year at Vence Hunter also painted in other locations on the Mediterranean coast, at Villefranche, Cassis and St Tropez his base was at the Colombe d’Or. ‘It was in the South where the ideal setting for his work was to be found. There he could live like a peasant and feel like a prince. The utter simplicity of life – the peasant cooking – the plain white walls of his studio – the forms, colours richness of light in the surrounding landscape – all these gave him peace of mind and made for contentment.’ (T. J. Honeyman, Introducing Leslie Hunter, 1937, p. 145) Despite the beautiful surroundings, the sunlight, the kindness of new friends and Hunter’s production of very fine paintings at Vence, his health began to deteriorate towards the end of his time there. Following his ingestion of a quantity of turpentine that he had mistaken for a glass of wine, he was admitted to a clinic in Nice after which it was decided that he should return to Glasgow to be nursed back to health. This was unfortunate not only for Hunter the man, but also for him as an artist as the work he produced in Vence was of a high quality and had he remained there in good health and spirits he would undoubtedly have produced equally fine work.
The Auberge de Colombe d’Or was run by Monsieur Paul Roux who served an excellent lunch for guests (and resident artists) and made his guests most welcome with his simple but generous hospitality. Many artists found the hospitality enchanting, and among the visitors to the Colombe d’Or were the painters Miro, Matisse and Cocteau and in later years the simple hotel counted guests as varied as Sophia Loren to Sigismund Freud. Monsieur Roux told Dr Honeyman in 1934 when Honeyman visited the hotel; '’‘Huntaire! I kept him here for three years without any payment. He was “tres gentil”’ (T. J. Honeyman, Introducing Leslie Hunter, 1937, p. 142). Hunter paid his way by giving Monsieur Roux some of the paintings he produced in his small studio. Hunter even discovered a love interest at Vence, in Miss Helene Vanel who in collaboration with Lois Hutton founded Les Danseuses de Sant-Paul a dance theatre devoted to mime, dance and masque. Unfortunately like her classical namesake Helene ignited a destructive passion within Hunter which she did not reciprocate and it is believed that it was this unrequited love that led to Hunter’s break-down. He told Honeyman on one occasion; ‘If it had been possible for that woman to have married me everything would have turned out so differently.’ (ibid Honeyman, p. 145)
The present painting, a fine example of the vibrant still lifes painted at the Colombe d’Or is comparable with a similar still life also depicting dhalias (sold in these rooms, 31 August 2005, lot 1088).
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