This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonné of Henri-Edmond Cross being prepared by Patrick Offenstadt under the sponsorship of the Wildenstein Institute.
Galerie Wiltscher, Berlin
Marcel and Liliane Pollak, Paris (sold: Sotheby's, London, November 29, 1994, lot 34)
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner
Cross began painting this colorful scene of two female bathers about one year after moving from Paris to Saint Clair in the south of France. The Mediterranean provided him with the inspiration to use a brighter palette and flatter forms to create luminosity in his compositions. The particular style of these paintings is known as Divisionism, which is characterized by juxtaposing small touches of pure color. The present work epitomizes the Divisionist style, with its use of opposing colors to capture the intensity of the Mediterranean sun.
Cross's method generally involved working outside with small drawings and watercolors, which he would later finish in his studio. These finished compositions often featured bathing women and evoked a mood of measured idealism rather than an immediate response to nature. The artist once explained to Théo van Rysselberghe in 1905 that "...On the rocks, on the sand of the beaches, nymphs and naiads appear to me, a whole world born of beautiful light" (quoted in Neo-Impressionism (exhibition catalogue), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1968, p. 47).
The present work, with its two frolicking nudes in a spectacularly colorful setting, can be considered a forerunner to Matisse's famous Fauvist pictures of nudes completed a decade later. Robert Herbert writes, "Cross's nudes along the Mediterranean coast were important forbearers of the nymphs that appear a few years later in Fauve paintings. It is such pictures as this that Matisse was particularly impressed by, and his Luxe, Calme et Volupté is its direct descendant" (ibid., pp. 46-47).
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