Standing on the harbour wall looking back towards the Chateau Royal de Collioure, Martin depicts the famous townscape of Collioure on the cusp of the Bastille Day festivities. Imbued with his vivid use of light and colour, the work reveals Martin’s ability to distil the vibrations of sunlight into their formative colours. Indeed, it is the unique painterly quality of the work which reflects precisely the power and immediacy of the artist's pointillist technique. The quickly applied, spontaneous brushstrokes constitute a remarkable example of Martin’s œuevre, displaying a colouristic boldness and gestural exuberance that places it among his most accomplished Collioure works. When describing Martin's personal interpretation of Impressionist techniques, Jules Laforgue remarked, “The shapes are given not by an outline drawing, but only by vibrations and contrasts in colours. The painting whatever it represents, the light of the studio is replaced by natural light and work indoors, by work in the open air […] A lover of reality, he does not want it to impose upon him its feelings but to help him to transfigure his dream of beauty with a more accurate, a more lively eloquence. He borrowed the Impressionists' technique to reveal a quite subjective art. Impressionism gave Henri Martin his expression, but it does not impose upon him its inspiration” (Jacques Martin-Ferrières, Henri Martin, Paris, 1967, pp. 33-34).
Collioure had long been a favourite of the Fauve and Neo-Impressionist artists of the early 20th Century. By 1905, Henri Matisse, Paul Signac and André Derain had fallen in love with the Catalan splendour and leisurely charm of the seaside town, incorporating its landscape into some of their most remarkable works (fig. 1). Following its ‘discovery’, the sleepy seaside village began to enjoy a burgeoning summer industry: artists, poets and writers drawn by the warm Mediterranean climate and easy pace of life moved to the town throughout the war years and into the 1920s. In 1923 Martin settled in Collioure; whilst building his house, the artist rented a studio overlooking the port, affording him views of the citadel to one side and the bustling fishing boats to the other. It was here that Martin executed a series of works of the port drenched in Mediterranean sunlight. The harmony of the composition, with the rampart walls, village homes and fishing boats, perfectly illustrates Martin's interest in recording both the interplay of light on objects and the rhythmic orchestration of line.
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