- Voiliers à Sète
- Signed marquet (lower left)
- Oil on canvas
Private Collection, France (acquired circa 1930s)
As soon as Albert Marquet secured an income, he began to travel, exploring many ports and cities in Western Europe. In 1909, he visited Hamburg and Naples. All the while, the artist was keenly interested in depicting the movement and color of his favorite subjects: ports, harbors and rivers. During the Great War, Marquet was left largely to travel within the confines of France, traveling principally between Paris and Marseilles.
The year 1920 marked a turning point in Marquet's professional and domestic life. After having recovered from poor health the previous year while working in Paris and Marseilles, Marquet left in search of a warmer climate as well as new subject matter to inspire him. He traveled in January from Marseilles to Algiers. Shortly after his arrival, he wrote to Matisse, George Besson, his biographer, and others telling them of his new environs. Armed with a letter of introduction, he met Marcelle Martinet, who took the artist on long hikes in and around Algiers. They were subsequently married in 1923.
In the present work, Marquet captures the Southern light and warm waters he sought during his frequent travels. The intensity of the light is here punctuated by Marquet's confident use of long unbroken brushstrokes: among them the red dash highlighting the prow of the boat at lower left, and the deep blue stripe of the high horizon line. The artist's painterly, gestured brushwork punctuates the shimmering turquoise waters, each reflection dramatically mirroring the shapes of the elegant pleasure crafts and the distant tower of Sète.
In his description of Marquet's fascination with seaports, François Daulte noted that the artist had "an incomparable instinct...to reduce a landscape to its essential factors, separating the horizontal lines from the vertical. These lines he used to depict perspective, and to convey dimension. He always considered that the representation of space remained the principal element in the composition of a painting" (Marquet (exhibition catalogue), Knoedler Gallery, New York, 1964, pp. 4 & 5).