Lot 240
  • 240

Louis Valtat

400,000 - 600,000 USD
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  • Louis Valtat
  • Suzanne Valtat, Le jardin d'Agay
  • Signed L. Valtat (lower right)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 51 1/4 by 76 3/4 in.
  • 130.2 by 195 cm


Hammer Galleries, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1993

Catalogue Note

Best known for his resplendent landscapes and vivid flower compositions, Louis Valtat was to become a highly-regarded painter of the Post-Impressionist period. Having absorbed the chief tenets of classical Impressionism and Pointillism in the 1890s, Valtat was both intrigued and influenced by contemporaries such as Matisse, Marquet, Camoin, Manguin, Vlaminck, Derain, Dufy and Van Dongen, with whom he exhibited at the famous Salon d’Automne of 1905. 

The present work illustrates a profoundly personal scene, as it depicts Valtat’s young wife, Suzanne Nöel, amidst the private grounds of the couple’s garden at Agay.  It is the perfect subject matter and setting for a meditation on the artist’s unique stylistic synthesis of form.  As Raymond Cogniat contends, “The ambition of Impressionism was to express the maximum intensity of a moment in nature, and to suggest the rustle of foliage, the ripple of water and the ceaseless vibrations of light and shade…Something in [Valtat’s] temperament, however, impelled him towards a sense of permanence and profound stability.  About 1895 he seems to have felt the urge to escape from the Impressionist formula in order to capture, not the transitory mood, but the more durable aspects of nature” (Cogniat, Louis Valtat, Paris, p. 25).

After the turn of the 20th century, Valtat and other avant-garde pioneers of Post-Impressionism began to experiment with their brushstrokes.  “They laid on the pigment thickly…in strokes that resembled vivid scars and which no longer had anything in common with the hatchings of Impressionism”  (ibid, p. 23).  Yet in spite of the artist’s heavy application of paint, the airy subject matter maintains integrity of its own thanks to the stunning Fauvist potpourri of floral tones.  As Sarah Whitfield notes, “Louis Valtat, whose color appears to float on the surface of the canvas, is another painter somewhat loosely bracketed with the Fauves. Both Valtat, who like Matisse was born in 1869, and Seyssaud, who was two years older, belonged to the generation of painters who understood the picture surface to be primarily a flat piece of canvas covered with areas of paint" (S. Whitfield, Fauvism, London, 1991, p. 28).  These “areas of paint” were charged with evocative color in an attempt to enlighten the canvas and seduce the spectator.  The present work is a poignant example, a stunning synthesis of simplicity of form and exuberant luminosity.