Details & Cataloguing

Erotic: Passion & Desire


Henri Martin
1860 - 1943
signed Henri Martin (lower left); signed with the artist's monogram and dated 19-00 (lower right)
oil on canvas
189.5 by 109.9cm., 74 5/8 by 43 1/4 in.
Painted in 1900.
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M. P. Riff, Paris
M. Périnet, Paris
The Greenwich Gallery, Connecticut
Private Collection, California (acquired from the above in 2005; sale: Christie's, New York, 7 May 2008, lot 331)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner


Paris, Salon des Artistes Français, 1900, no. 903
Beverly Hills, Anderson Galleries & New York, Hammer Galleries, Eden Close at Hand: The Paintings of Henri Martin 1860-1943, 2005, no. 14, illustrated in colour in the catalogue 


Léonce Bénédite, 'La Lyre et les muses par Henri Martin' in Art et Décoration, January-June 1900, illustrated pp. 7-8
Achille Ségard, Peintres d'aujourd'hui. Les Décorateurs, Paris, 1914, illustrated pp. 34-35

Catalogue Note

Depicting a half-clothed woman in an attitude of sensual abandon and surrounded by cascades of lilies, Beauté is a highly accomplished example of Henri Martin’s Symbolist style. Painted in 1900, it forms part of a series of paintings in which the artist explored the theme of the Muse as creative inspiration. Although Martin had found critical success early on in his career – being awarded the coveted hors concors status by the Salon in 1883, which entitled him to submit work to the annual exhibition without the prior approval of the jury – his painting underwent a change in stylistic direction during the 1890s and early 1900s, becoming more experimental. He became increasingly fascinated by the effects of light, an interest explored to superb effect within the present work in which the woman’s torso appears to be bathed in the warm glow of candlelight against a twilight sky.

Making reference to the present work, Petra ten-Doesschate Chu notes that: ‘Perhaps Martin was inspired[…] by Baudelaire’s famous poem, La Beauté, which pictures beauty as a woman, whose breast “is made to inspire in the poet a love as eternal and silent as matter” and which attributes to beauty “a heart of snow”’ (quoted in Eden Close at Hand, The Paintings of Henri Martin 1860-1943 (exhibition catalogue), Anderson Galleries, New York, 2005, p. 66). The importance Martin attached to this work is attested to by the fact that he chose to exhibit it at the prestigious Paris Salon in 1900. In fact, the artist was so enamoured by this particular subject that he also painted another version (currently housed in the collection of the Musée des Augustins in Toulouse) which mirrors the present work.

Erotic: Passion & Desire