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a word on art

Gustave Loiseau-Le Quai du Pothuis à Pontoise

“I would attribute only one quality to myself: that of being sincere. I work in privacy, when able, and strive to translate as best I can the impressions I receive from nature.”

-Gustave Loiseau to Thiébault-Sisson, 1930.



Provenance

 The Redfern Gallery, London.R.A. Saunders, Esq.; Purchased from the above in February 1944.Sale; Sotheby's, New York, May 10, 1995, Lot 253.Richard Green, London (Stock Number SP1037); Sold in 1995. (Incorrectly dated 1906)

Ms. Christel DeHaan, Linden House, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Gladwell & Patterson, London; acquired at the above sale.

 


This work will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné being prepared by Didier Imbert.



Introduction

One of the foremost Post-Impressionist painters, Gustave Loiseau was profoundly influenced by the great masterpieces of the Impressionists. A champion of painting the landscape en plein air, Loiseau embraced the use of bold colour as he explored and expanded the Impressionist style.


Illustrating a clear, bright day along the River Oise, Le Quai du Pothuis à Pontoise depicts the industrial bustle of Pontoise, with factories billowing smoke on the horizon in the distance. A woman in a beautiful white dress and her child stand on the banks of the river Oise, enjoying the tranquil summers day. Painted at the height of Loiseau’s Impressionist period, the work embodies the young artists’ influence of his Impressionist forebears, most notably that of Alfred Sisley and Claude Monet. Painted en plein air, Loiseau captures the very essence of a hot summers day with harmonious tones of warm blues and the use of delicate feathered brushstrokes, reminiscent of Sisley’s mature technique.




Pontoise

In 1884, Loiseau’s parents moved from Paris to Pontoise, where both his paternal and maternal grandparents had lived.[1] Throughout his career, Pontoise would remain a pivotal focus in Loiseau’s domestic and working life and inspired many of his most notable paintings.


Located some twenty-five miles northwest of Paris, Pontoise was built on a hilltop, with the river Oise passing through it, elements which made it a highly picturesque environment in which to paint en plein air.  The town's economy included agriculture as well as industry, and offered Loiseau a wide range of subjects, from views of the town’s historic streets and churches, picturesque river views of the Oise, and the peaceful suburbs and countryside surrounding the town itself.


The natural beauty of this part of the French countryside was the subject of many of Loiseau’s finest compositions throughout his career. Pontoise had long been established as an important artistic community, with Camille Pissarro settling in the suburb of L’Hermitage on the outskirts of Pontoise intermittently from 1866 until 1883. Pissarro’s landscapes of Pontoise and the surrounding area were to have a profound influence upon a whole generation of painters, notably Paul Cézanne and Paul Gauguin, who came to the Oise valley to work alongside the older artist. Pontoise was therefore deeply entrenched in the history of Impressionism and modern art and as Loiseau’s hometown, the young artist was keen to capture this beautiful town under his unique brush.


Following the success of his first three exhibitions with Durand-Ruel, Loiseau acquired land in Pontoise in 1903, on the banks of the river Oise on the Quai de Pothuis where he proceeded to build his home and workshop over the following two years. Pontoise would become an anchor throughout the artist’s life and career, and where he would return in the winter, having traveled extensively during the summer months in Normandy, Brittany and the Dordogne, seeking out suitable subject matters.




Le Quai du Pothuis à Pontoise depicts a viewpoint that was deeply personal and familiar to Loiseau.  His maternal grandparents had lived on the Quai du Pothuis since 1860, and fond memories of walks along the banks of the Oise, as depicted in this painting, would have been entrenched in the artists’ mind from childhood.[2] The building of his house and studio at this location beside the River Oise would have neared completion in 1905 ,when the present work was painted.


The richly pigmented surface of Le Quai du Pothuis à Pontoise is composed of spontaneous brushwork that is layered to create a scintillating dance of light. Tall trees line the riverbank and they cast deep, purpled shadows on a path that appears to glow with the heat of a summer sun. The water and grass lining the bank dazzle with staccato strokes of blue, green, yellow, and violet. Two small figures, a woman and child, can be seen at the focal point of the composition. Their miniscule presence serves to accentuate the broad expanse of river and land under the sweeping blue sky.


Loiseau painted the Quai du Pothuis in several compositions from a variety of views that range from misty mornings to brilliant, sunshine-filled afternoons; such as can be seen in the present artwork. Analogous to Monet, Loiseau explored in his canvases the different atmospheric conditions of Pontoise and its surrounding landscape and river. He depicted the Quai du Pothuis facing upstream, as in the present work, as well as looking downstream with the Île du Pothuis in the distance. Collectively, these works are dominated by a striking linearity that draws the viewer into the composition. The play of vertical and diagonal lines created in the juxtaposition between the tall poplars and the lines of the path beside the Oise invite the viewer into the composition.


[1] C. Duvivier in Exh. Cat., Gustave Loiseau – Paysages d’Île-de-France et de Normandie, Musée de Camille Pissarro, Pontoise, 2018, p.10

[2] C. Duvivier in Exh. Cat., Gustave Loiseau – Paysages d’Île-de-France et de Normandie, Musée de Camille Pissarro, Pontoise, 2018, p.10



 

Style and Technique

Loiseau’s use of dappled directional brushstrokes and his skilful handling of paint reveals his debt to the Impressionists. It was the ability to portray the effects of outdoor light that was of such importance to the Impressionists, and which meant that the smoothness of the finished work, much valued in traditional painting, would give way for a more textured surface. Monet, Sisley and Pissarro applied paint with thick impasto brushstrokes to create texture and contrast throughout his compositions. Sisley referred to this as the animation of the surface and built-up layers of paint in response to the landscape in front of him.16 This free, broken brushstroke became one of the hallmarks of the Impressionists and was wholeheartedly embraced by Loiseau and his fellow post-Impressionists. Following the example of his Impressionist forbears, through interweaving colours, and added texture, Loiseau built up his characteristic atmospheric landscapes.

 

The painting’s rich surface, composed using spontaneous brushwork and areas of thickly applied paint, exemplifies Loiseau’s experimental nature. This still and serene landscape is animated by the movement of the gently rolling clouds in the sky, painted with loose, featherlike brushstrokes. Transient images of foliage dotted on the riverbank are captured in spontaneous, almost brushed strokes in a pointillist manner. His technique and the chromatic variety of his palette express an extraordinary ability to synthesise Impressionism and Post-Impressionism.

 

While Loiseau often shied away from painting subjects in the midday light, preferring to work in the early morning or late evening, the present work sees the artist demonstrate his skill at representing direct sunlight. When compared to the often misty and atmospheric river scenes throughout Loiseau’s oeuvre, Le Quai du Pothuis à Pontoise is startling for its brightness and clarity. In fact, the overwhelming coloristic impression given is one of great warmth - the scene is bathed in bright, direct sunlight. Loiseau achieves this effect through the predominance of blues and greens with a naturalistic palette. With the artist’s Pissarro-inspired brushwork, Loiseau then completes the painting by bathing this harmonious composition with an almost shimmering effect.



 

Conclusion

Encouraged and fostered by the most important figures of the art world in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, Loiseau painted this exquisite work at pinnacle of his Impressionist manner in the summer of 1905. The brushwork and harmonious colour palette of Le Quai du Pothuis à Pontoise reveal Loiseau’s profound skill in capturing the ambiance of nature. The vibrating colour harmonies of the foliage on the river bank and the feathered brushstrokes of the gently sweeping clouds enliven this bright summer landscape.


Here, Loiseau focuses on the fleeting light effects and gentle calm of the flowing river. The layered impasto creates a distinction between land, water and sky, as well as recreating the texture of the grasses, trees, and houses on the Quai to Pothuis. The painting resonates with the atmospheric quality of a warm summers day with a light breeze. This still and serene landscape is animated by the movement of the clouds in the sky, painted with longer, loose brushstrokes than their reflections in the

 

water below, evoking a calming ambiance. Loiseau masterly depicted the clouded sky and abundant foliage with the use of delicate feathered brushstrokes, reminiscent of Monet’s technique.

Identifiable through a rich surface, composed using spontaneous brushwork as the pigment is layered upon the canvas, this masterful painting reveals Loiseau’s instinctive use of the Impressionist techniques of his forebears in his quest to capture nature as he experienced it en plein air.

 

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