Lot 353
  • 353

Georges Valmier

300,000 - 500,000 USD
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  • Georges Valmier
  • Le Bal Musette
  • Signed G. Valmier and dated 1927 (lower right)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 51 by 64 3/8 in.
  • 129.7 by 163.5 cm


Léonce Rosenberg, Paris
Private Collection (and sold: Lombrail, Enghien-les-Bains, June 24, 1981, lot 11)
Private Collection (acquired at the above sale and sold: Chayette-Calmels, Paris, March 31, 1990, lot 53)
Acquired at the above sale 


Paris, Musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris, Passions privées, Collections particulières d'art moderne et contemporain en France, 1996, Collection Maurice Weinberg A24, no. 5, illustrated p. 256


Bulletin de L'Effort Moderne, no. 36, Paris, 1927, illustrated n.p.
Georges Pillement, "Georges Valmier, Peintre et décorateur," in Art et décoration, Paris, 1930, tome 58, vol. II, illustrated p. 91
Édouard Joseph, Dictonnaire biographique des artistes contemporains, vol. III, Paris, 1934, p. 373
Connaissance des arts, Paris, May 1959, illustrated n.p. 
Laurence Marceillac, Unpublished thesis, Paris, 1977, no. 92
Denise Bazetoux, Georges Valmier, Catalogue raisonné, Paris, 1993, no. 334, illustrated n.p. 
Frédérique Bodin, "Des Collectionneurs s'exposent," in Le Télégramme, January 31, 1996, illustrated n.p. 
Philippine Maréchaux, "Propriété privée: Entrez!" in Univers des arts, February 1996, illustrated 
Spéctacle du monde, February 1996, illustrated


The canvas is strip-lined. The surface is stable although there are areas of hairline craquelure scattered throughout. Under UV light: some broad strokes of inpainting to address the craquelure, notably to the leg of the left hand figure and the edge of the pink background element at center right. Some retouching around the edges likely to address prior frame abrasion.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

One of the leading Cubist painters after World War I, Georges Valmier was also a talented musician who performed works by Debussy, Ravel and Fauré in some of the most prestigious Parisian concert halls and churches and he was a close friend of the composer André Jolivet. His own father was a prize-winning flautist, conductor and music teacher who passed on a love of music to his son from a young age. In this monumental composition from 1927, Valmier combines his two passions in a work of dazzling visual force, capturing the sonic energy and joyful rhythm of a contemporary music hall.

Bal-Musette was a style of popular music and dance that emerged in Paris towards the end of the nineteenth century, a fusion of traditional Auvergnat and Italian styles typically based around the accordion. By the time this picture was painted, the Bal-Musette was nearing the height of its popularity, with Parisians increasingly embracing its bohemian atmosphere and high-paced, sensual dance-steps. Entry to the balls was typically free of charge, with dancers buying coupons per dance, creating a convivial, raucous ambiance in which social classes mingled freely. Valmier was particularly seduced by this world and its blend of popular cultural traditions. By the late 1920s the versatile artist was also participating frequently in theatrical productions as a scenery and costume designer, and his activity in the fields of theater and music was consistent in style and concept with his painting. Indeed, his versatility as an artist may be seen as an expression of his desire to create an all-encompassing, non-exclusive and democratic art, as Laurence Berthon-Marceillac has observed: “This consistency is part of the wish for a total art, accessible to all and no longer confined within the circle of initiates who frequent studios and galleries: total art which unites writing, music and plastic expression. Truly popular art, of which Valmier often speaks in his writing and which attests to the attraction which this plastic artist—who is also, let us not forget, a musician—feels for theatrical expression” (Laurence Berthon-Marceillac, "L’oeuvre de Georges Valmier," in Denise Bazetoux, op. cit., p. 29).

In this large-format canvas, the artist uses contrasting color panes and shadows to create cascading, dancing forms, producing the illusion of a crowd in movement, transcending the subject matter to evoke the transience and perpetual motion of all human experience. Georges Pillement, a collector of Valmier's works, wrote: "His art is more an art of intuition than one of constructive intelligence, it is an art of mysticism that tries, behind human appearances, to probe the divine background whose molecules are scattered in us... He succeeded in giving his works such dynamism that they seem to be continually in movement, that the lines and the forms that we perceive continue to modify themselves following the laws of constant change which govern all beings and all of nature" (quoted in Denise Bazetoux, op. cit., pp. 29-30).

When Valmier painted this picture, he was under contract with the legendary dealer Léonce Rosenberg, whose gallery L'Effort Moderne was a lively cultural center that promoted Cubist artists. Le Bal Musette was published in Rosenberg’s Bulletin de l’Effort Moderne shortly after its completion and subsequently remained in a private French collection for many years, illustrated widely in the French press upon the occasion of the prestigious Passions privées exhibition in 1996.