- Maximilien Luce
- Paris, le Pont-Neuf et le quai Conti (jour)
- signed Luce and dated 96 (lower left)
- oil on canvas
- 46.5 by 55cm., 17 7/8 by 22 5/8 in.
Private Collection (by descent from the above; sale: Sotheby's, New York, 6th November 2002, lot 147)
Richard Green Gallery, London (purchased at the above sale)
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Maximilien Luce was not a particularly compliant Neo-Impressionist: instead of rigidly following the rigorous system of pointillism, he often allowed his personality to dominate the style of his works, and some of his most successful compositions are a direct result of his individual mix of the exacting precision that Neo-Impressionism promoted combined with a more personal lyrical beauty. Early on in his career, art critic Félix Fénéon recognised in Luce this particular mark of raw non-conformity, describing him as a ‘coarse, honest man, with a rough and muscular talent’ (quoted in Grace Glueck, ‘Painting his way from Style to Style’ in The New York Times, 30th May 1997, p. 22).
Another trait that distinguished Luce from some of his Neo-Impressionist contemporaries was his love of urban scenes. While other artists such as Seurat and Signac were drawn towards open landscapes and running waters, Luce (like Camille Pissarro) was captivated by the animated bridges and boulevards of the city of Paris. The present work depicts the ancient bridge that links La Rive Gauche and Ile de France bustling with elegant Parisians and horse-drawn carriages in a warm dappled light suggestive of the mid-afternoon; Luce often returned to the same scenes at different times of the day to capture the varying effects of the ebb and flow of light and the evolving bustle of the boulevards.
Its name is something of a misnomer as the Pont Neuf is in fact the oldest standing bridge in Paris. It was thus named to distinguish it from the older bridges of the time, which have all long since been dismantled. The bridge holds a romantic place in the history and culture of Paris, hence why it has inspired artists, among whom Maximilien Luce and Man Ray, to capture and recreate its charm. It was the first bridge in Paris not to support houses and to serve exclusively as a thoroughfare for both pedestrians and carriages; this decision was made so as not to impede the glorious view of the Musée Louvre that the bridge afforded. From the start, the Pont Neuf was a popular and lively route, populated by all walks of life. The philosopher Franklin once wrote home to his friends in America that it was only on crossing the Pont Neuf that he truly understood the Parisian character (quoted in Paul Lacroix, Curiosités de l'histoire du vieux Paris, Paris, 1858, p. 337)
Paris, Le Pont-Neuf et le quai Conti (Jour) is a wonderful and scintillating celebration of the spirit of the fin-de-siècle city which Maximilien Luce – among many others - so loved. Depicted in strong and lustrous colours that prefigures the work of the Fauves, the present dazzling composition is a remarkable expression of Luce’s very personal response to the splendour of the modern world.