Mexican-born Ángel Zárraga arrived in Europe shortly before the outbreak of World War I. His Parisian studio became a center of artistic interchange and innovation and he aligned his artistic philosophy with the Cubists. Artists and intellectuals such as Juan Gris, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Louise Chardoné, André Salmon, Roger de la Fresnaye and the poet Guillaume Apollinaire would regularly gather there to both paint and have lively debates and discussions. Cubism for Zárraga became a vehicle of exploration and experimentation of color, tone, volume and dimensional plane. Innovative and masterful, Zárraga’s Cubist works were exhibited by Léonce Rosenberg, the esteemed owner of Galerie de L’Effort Moderne, amongst artistic peers Diego Rivera, Georges Braque, Jacques Lipchitz, Fernand Léger and others. By 1918, however, Zárraga found the momentum and provocativeness of the Cubist movement distilled and monotonous, writing in Le Bulletin de la vie artistique, “Cubism has become nothing more than a decorative pastime, a trivial novelty” (quoted in Michele Greet, “Del Cubismo al muralism: Ángel Zárraga en Paris”, El Sentido de la Creación, Angel Zárraga, Mexico City, 2014, p. 79).
His 1920 exhibition at Galerie Bernheim-Jeune proclaimed the emergence of a new pictorial future. Definitively breaking away from Cubism, Zárraga’s new paintings derived their foundation in the Neoclassicism that proliferated throughout artistic circles at the end of World War I: an exquisite investigation of the human body and form, ideal beauty and natural harmony. His wife Jeannette Ivanoff, a Russian-born soccer player and gymnast, became the model and muse for his most vivid paintings and drawings during this time. Profoundly sensual and elegantly sculptural, L'Été is exemplary of his new visual language. In its title, Zárraga alludes to the Greek goddess of summer, Theros. There is an intensity of sublime light and tender shadows that is cast upon the nude figure, as she disrobes against the lush green landscape, appearing almost monumental and otherworldly.