- Maximilien Luce
- signed Luce and dated 92 (lower left)
- oil on canvas
- 54.2 by 65.1cm., 21 3/8 by 25 5/8 in.
Family of the artist
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Paris, Galerie de la Gazette des Beaux-Arts, Seurat et ses Amis, la Suite de l'Impressionnisme, 1933-34, no. 32
Saint-Germain-en-Laye, Musée du Prieuré, L'Éclatement de l'Impressionnisme, 1982-83, no. 21
Paris, Musée Marmottan, Maximilien Luce, 1983
Pontoise, Musée Tavet, Musée Pissarro, Maximilien Luce, 1987, no. 21
Paris, Galerie H. Odermatt - Ph. Cazeau, Maximilien Luce, époque néo-impressionniste 1887-1903, 1987-88, no. 23
Jean Sutter, Luce: Les Travaux et les jours, Lausanne, 1971, illustrated p. 9
Philippe Cazeau, Maximilien Luce, Paris, 1982, illustrated p. 63
Jean Bouin-Luce & Denise Bazetoux, Catalogue raisonné de l'œuvre peint, Paris, 1986, vol. I, illustrated p. 75; vol. II, no. 952, illustrated p. 238
'Maximilien Luce has always displayed little concern for theory. The principles of tonal contrasts are subordinate to the strength of his personality and his impressions'
Charles Saunier, 'Salon des Indépendants', La Plume, 15th April 1893, p. 171, translated from the French
Painted in 1892, at the height of Maximilien Luce's neo-Impressionist period, Saint Tropez, Route du cimetière is among the artist's most exquisite depictions of the Mediterranean landscape. Invited to spend the summer of 1892 with Paul Signac in Saint Tropez (fig. 1), Luce was dazzled by the beautiful light of the South of France having spent the duration of spring with Camille Pissarro in misty London. Possessed of an extraordinary luminosity, this rich, shimmering landscape is testament to Luce's distinctive mastery of the neo-Impressionist trademark style, divisionnisme. As Denise Bazetoux, author of Luce's catalogue raisonné, notes in praise of the present work: 'Route du Cimetière brilliantly reproduces the light and contrasting colours of the Mediterranean with a broadly divided brush-stroke: luminous blue for the sky, deep blue for the sea, but also greens, ochres and shady violets for the ground' (Denise Bazetoux, Maximilien Luce, Catalogue de l'œuvre peint, Paris, 1986, vol. I, pp. 71-76). The overall visual effect is of great unity, warmth and charm as a lone man strolls along a coastal path next to a marine cemetery from which Saint Tropez, Route du cimetière derives its full title.
Made famous by Georges Seurat's Un dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte at the 1886 Salon des Artistes Indépendants, divisionism was based on the theory that by placing tiny brushstrokes of pure contrasting hues next to each other on the canvas, tones could be mixed optically by the observer rather than on the palette and that this would enable the artist to create an exceptionally radiant effect of light. Having trained as a draughtsman and an engraver, Luce excelled at the exactitude required by this style and by the early 1890s he was already beginning to assimilate and apply all the subtleties of execution that were to differentiate his art from the other neo-Impressionists. The instinctive nature of Luce's touch and high colour harmonies are instantly recognisable in Saint Tropez, Route du cimetière, as the critic Charles Saunier notes in his review of the 9th Salon des Artistes Indépendants in 1893 where the present work was exhibited: 'M. Maximilien Luce has always displayed little concern for theory. The principles of tonal contrasts are subordinate to the strength of his personality and his impressions. His canvases, for their vigour and their rendering, are far superior to the creations of the majority of his friends' (Charles Saunier, 'Salon des Indépendants', La Plume, 15th April 1893, p. 171, translated from the French).
Invited to participate in the 9th Salon des Artistes Indépendants in 1893 (fig. 2), Luce chose to exhibit the present work alongside another painting from his time in Saint Tropez as well as two views of London. The art critic Félix Fénéon, who had coined the term neo-Impressionism, was delighted with the contrast. Using the colloquial style favoured by the publication, Fénéon wrote in the anarchist paper La Père Peinard: 'Rattling good oils by Luce. To start with, you're in the South: the sun is beaming down, if it goes on, the sea with (sic) be boiling like soup. Then whoosh, old fellow Luce takes us elsewhere. Gone the sun! Fog! Gone the Mediterranean, here comes the Thames. But whether among the English or among the garlic gobblers, Luce knows the ropes' (quoted in D. Bazetoux, Maximilien Luce, Catalogue de l'oeuvre peint, Paris, 1986, vol. I, p. 71).
Fénéon's droll review points to the immersive qualities of this work; we feel drawn up this winding road, where we can almost feel the sun on our backs, only to be cooled by a sea breeze blowing across the turquoise waters.