Lot 111
  • 111

LOUIS VALTAT | Les Hôtes de la mer

80,000 - 120,000 GBP
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  • Louis Valtat
  • Les Hôtes de la mer
  • signed L. Valtat (lower right)
  • oil on canvas
  • 130.5 by 162cm., 51 3/8 by 63 3/4 in.
  • Painted in 1906.


Ambroise Vollard, Paris
Private Collection, Paris (sale: Sotheby’s, London, 4th April 1990, lot 418)
Private Collection, Amsterdam (purchased at the above sale; sale: Sotheby’s, London, 9th December 1997, lot 412)
De heer I Bouwman, Amsterdam (purchased at the above sale)
Acquired from the above by the present owner in the late 1990s


Tokyo, Tokyo Department Store, Ambroise Vollard Collection, 1972, no. 46, illustrated in the catalogue (titled Les Fruits de mer and as dating from circa 1920)


The canvas is not lined. Examination under UV light reveals florescence relating to a repaired tear to the upper centre of the composition in the body of a lighter fish. The upper left corner has scattered pigment loss and is slightly undulating. Each edge has evidence of frame rubbing with associated pigment loss. The areas of thicker impasto have some craquelure. This work is in good condition.
"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. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

Louis Valtat is most often categorised by his impossibility to categorise. Thus Claudine Grammont began her catalogue introduction to the artist’s first major retrospective held at the Musée de Lodève in 2011: ‘Valtat as an artist is difficult to situate within the context of the history of art and – for want of any better classification – has by default been labelled an independent painter’ (Louis Valtat, à l’aube du fauvisme (exhibition catalogue), Musée de Lodève, Lodève, 2011, p. 23, translated from the French). Having exhibited alongside the artists who would become known as the Fauves in 1905, Valtat is often cited alongside the likes of Henri Matisse and André Derain, however, he most frequently kept the company of the preceding generation of painters, notably those associated with the Nabis style of painting (Pierre Bonnard, Édouard Vuillard and Maurice Denis) and also maintained a close friendship with Impressionist forefather Pierre-Auguste Renoir throughout his working life. Influences of all three movements manifest themselves in his œuvre.   The present work is symptomatic of his independent style – itself quite the anomaly in his wider body of work. Depicted in vivid colours and broad brushstrokes of thick paint that evoke the unfettered expressionism for which the Fauves were known, Les Hôtes de la mer is a jubilant celebration of aquamarine life. Red crabs, cobalt blue lobsters, murky green sting rays and silvery sharks populate the golden yellow backdrop. The subject matter draws upon the traditional composition of a still life, in which painters contemporary to Valtat and dating back to the Old Masters frequently depicted fish upon tables. Valtat, however, subverts this subject by defying the ‘still’ of the title: though arranged in a distinctly flat plane, akin to the aesthetic of the Nabis, the proliferation of eyes, fins and flippers converge in a whirlwind of motion and vibrancy.

Only two other directly comparable works are recorded in the artist’s Catalogue raisonné detailing a career which spanned over 60 years (cf. Jean Valtat, Louis Valtat, Catalogue raisonnée de l’œuvre peint, 1869-1952, Paris, 1977, nos. 820 & 1234). The present work is the largest and most complete of these. It was originally in the collection of Ambroise Vollard, who was the most important patron and supporter of Valtat during his lifetime and who – on the initial recommendation of Pierre-Auguste Renoir - bought the mainstay of his output for the first decade of the 20th Century. The present work was shown publicly in Tokyo in 1972 in an exhibition of important works from Vollard's collection.

This work is recorded in the archives of l’Association Les Amis de Louis Valtat.