Lot 138
  • 138

HENRI MATISSE | Pont de Seine

120,000 - 180,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Henri Matisse
  • Pont de Seine
  • oil on canvas
  • 25.7cm. by 32.6cm., 10 1/8 in. by 12 3/4 in.
  • Painted in 1897.


Henri Hermann & M. Loeb
With Roland, Browse & Delbanco, London
Acquired from the above by Sir John Smith in 1959


The canvas is lined. Examination under UV light reveals extensive retouching to the sky as well as further spots and lines in places predominantly to the quay in the lower right quadrant. There is stable craquelure throughout. There are a few fly spots to the sky. This work is in overall good condition and would benefit from a light clean.
"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

Painted early on in his career, Pont de Seine epitomises Matisse's vital transition from painting in the Neo-Impressionist style toward Fauvism. The deliberate contrast between the brilliant colours, the tonal uniformity and lack of modulation in the colour planes, and the architecture broken down into nearly abstract, geometric forms all hint at Matisse's later revolutionary flattening of the picture plane and firmly establish his unrivalled mastery of colour. Pont de Seine announces the daring palette and bold brushwork that would characterise the height of his Fauve years. A precursor to the revolutionary direction that Matisse’s art would take over the next decade, Pont de Seine is part of a series of works that earned the Frenchman a reputation as a master of colour, as John Elderfield describes: ‘after an extended stay in Corsica and Toulouse in 1898-1899, [Matisse] produced an important group of paintings in high key, arbitrary colours with un-naturalistically broken or atomised forms […] constructed purely from the relationship between colours, whose descriptive function is only summarily indicated. These “proto-fauve” paintings suddenly reveal the nature of Matisse’s genius as a colourist: his using colour not to imitate light, but to create it’ (John Elderfield, Henri Matisse, A Retrospective, New York, 1992, p. 81).

In the summer of 1897, Matisse travelled to Brittany to stay and work alongside his friend, the Australian painter John P. Russell. Matisse had stayed in Brittany previously for two summers, but it was this trip that ingrained the use of bold colours that would come to define his most important work of the early 20th century. In Pont de Seine, Matisse combines his inspiration of northern Brittany, where he was ‘seduced by the brilliance of pure colour. Returning from the trip with a passion for rainbow colours’, (the artist quoted in Pierre Schneider, Matisse, London, 2002, p.59) with his love-affair with Paris.

Pont de Seine is closely related to the celebrated series painted from the window of a studio in Paris that Matisse rented from 1895 to 1907, and again in 1913.  The series depicts a spectacular view over the Seine, with the impressive Pont Saint-Michel dominating the foreground. In the present work the footpath is bathed in sunshine, almost aglow with golds and yellows, whilst the shadows cast onto the water by the three round arches below are indicated with deft strokes of dark blue. Other versions from the series reside in the permanent collections of The Phillips Collection in Washington, the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by Georges Matisse.