Unlike many of his contemporaries, Valtat was born into a wealthy family and was actively encouraged to become an artist by his father. In 1887 Valtat moved to Paris to enter the École des Beaux-Arts and subsequently the Académie Julian to study under the Barbizon landscape painter Jules Dupré. During this time Valtat immersed himself in the Parisian art scene, learning and incorporating the tenets of Impressionism, Pointillism and a bold use of color that would come to define his work.
In 1894, Valtat developed tuberculosis and spent the autumn and winter along the Mediterranean coast in Banyuls, Antheor, Saint-Tropez and Spain. It was during a trip to Spain in the following year that Valtat painted the present work. He had often been inspired by Dupré's example to paint landscapes, and he remained true to this passion on his travels. The present work depicts a scene of two Spanish peasants cooling off from the midday heat beside a rural fountain. The vivid and intense tones of red, blue and yellow are complimented by the expressive use of thick brushstrokes. Valtat's paintings of this period are characterized by a violent, intense color which clearly prefigures the Fauves. His care in portraying everyday subject matter and the play of light and movement meanwhile shows his debt to the Impressionists. Areas of the canvas are painted with Pointillist delicacy and restraint, but these are overtaken by the broader more emphatic strokes that recall van Gogh, whose art he had seen in Paris (see fig. 1).
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