Funding from the syndicate liberated the perpetually destitute Hartley, who wrote to his dealer, Alfred Stieglitz, “for the first time in all our [relationship I have] been enabled to do something for myself… I am in another stage of life now Stieglitz” (quoted in Ibid., p. 52). The artist rented a house in Vence, France from late summer of 1925 until the fall of 1926 before moving to Aix-en-Provence, where he painted Ivy and Fruits and lived for three years punctuated by travel abroad. He quickly settled into the communities and entered a relatively tranquil phase despite bouts of ill health. Of the solace he found in Aix, the artist wrote that it was “the first spot on earth where I have felt right–in harmony–body, soul and mind–and if that can’t be called a state of ‘home’ then nothing can” (quoted in Ibid., p. 54).
Hartley’s sound mental state influenced a brightening of palette in the landscapes and still lifes that he painted in Aix. During the period, he was painting from life imbuing these works with a sense of immediacy and vibrancy. Ivy and Fruits possesses virile brushwork, a bold palette and striking, deliberately primitive composition that recalls both American Folk Art compositions and the work of Cézanne, an artist that Hartley greatly admired. In the present work, Hartley flattens the pictorial space and omits extraneous detail to focus on color and design, creating a fresh and thoroughly modern composition.
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