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a word on art

Gustave Loiseau-Les Peupliers

“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

Durand-Ruel, Paris.

Private Collection, Switzerland.

Sale; De Quay-Lombrail, Paris, France, 7th December 1995, Lot 13.

Private Collection, New York.

Michelle Rosenfeld Gallery, New York.

Sale; Sotheby’s, New York, 14th May 1997, lot 147; sold by the above.

Private Collection, New York.

Gladwell & Patterson, London; acquired in May 2021.

 

Exhibitions

Galerie Durand-Ruel, Paris, Exposition de tableaux de M. Gustave Loiseau, 26th March – 9th April 1898.

 

This work is sold with a certificate of authenticity and 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.


In 1895 Loiseau was introduced to the renowned Parisian art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel with whom he agreed an exclusive contract to sell his paintings. Loiseau’s first solo exhibition at Galerie Durand-Ruel took place from March to April in 1898. No exhibition catalogue was made for this exhibition, however Les Peupliers was first sold through Durand-Ruel in Paris and a review in La Revue Blanche by the art critic Thadée Natanson described landscapes depicting a range of scenes including ‘trembling haystacks and poplar trees’ which provides strong evidence that this painting was exhibited in Loiseau’s very first solo exhibition with Durand-Ruel.[1]




Les Peupliers depicts a vibrant landscape of the countryside surrounding the village of Nesle-la-Vallée where Loiseau lived from 1890. Painted in 1898 at this pivotal point in the artists career, this magnificent landscape represents the coming together of Loiseau’s greatest influences - the Pont-Aven School and Loiseau’s Impressionists forbears and reveals the young artists immeasurable talent and keen eye for observation through his ability to depict an atmospheric landscape through his application of paint.

 


Nesle-la-Vallée

In 1890 Loiseau acquired a house in the picturesque village of Nesle-la-Vallée, twelve kilometres north of Pontoise where his parents lived. Over the next decade he proceeded to paint various views of the countryside and farmland surrounding the village.


The suburb of Nesle-la-Vallée was a peaceful, intensely traditional hamlet with houses clustered together within the valley, abutting winding country paths. The majority of the land was given over to a patchwork of kitchen gardens or jardins potagers, where the district's inhabitants cultivated cabbages, potatoes, and peas for sale at local markets and fairs, spading the plots laboriously by hand throughout the year.


Loiseau depicted the farmland of Nesle-la-Vallée in different seasons and weather conditions, allowing the artist to capture the village in a variety of colours and atmospheres.




During the 1890’s Loiseau painted a selection of landscapes of Nesle-la-Vallée in a portrait format of majestic poplars enlivened against a calm blue sky. With their strict linearity and intrinsic decorative elegance, poplar trees were a favoured artistic motif in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. A quintessential feature of rural France, poplars were often placed along roads and at the entrances of estates. They were used as windshields for tilled fields and as a form of fencing to demarcate property lines, and were planted along the banks of rivers to diminish the possibility of flooding. Moreover, the poplar tree had been deemed the tree of liberty after the French Revolution, possibly because of the derivation of the name from the Latin populus, meaning both "people" and "popular."


These magnificent paintings of poplar trees were a departure from Loiseau’s other farmland landscapes of Nesle-la-Vallée, through the artists use of a more vibrant palette and his focus on the trees themselves rather than the local farmland and peasant workers. The present work, painted in 1898, depicts two rows of majestic poplar trees in the centre of the composition, beautifully rendered in loose brushstrokes. The foreground is filled with an abundance of golden wheat ready for harvesting and the eye is drawn to the distance where haybales have already started to be made. The poplars dominate the composition of Les Peupliers, guiding the viewer’s eye upwards to the bright blue sky with its sweeping white clouds.




Loiseau’s poplars are painted with particular vigour and freshness, their rich, dark foliage activated by touches of bright golden yellow and pink oil paint create a harmony with the fields below and the pink tinged clouds above. The painting’s rich surface, composed using spontaneous brushwork and areas of thickly applied paint, exemplifies Loiseau’s experimental nature. The still and serene landscape is animated by the movement of the clouds in the sky which evokes the feeling of a gentle wind. Les Peupliers is a magnificent example of Loiseau’s treatment of the gentle diffusion of light through the trees in order to attain chromatic harmony, whilst evoking the ambiance of a warm and breezy summer’s day.

 

The bold colours of Les Peupliers exemplifies Maufra and Moret’s influence on the young artist following his time in Pont-Aven earlier in the 1890s. Meanwhile the handling of paint and Loiseau’s use of dappled directional brushstrokes reveal his debt to the Impressionists, particularly Alfred Sisley. For Sisley, as for most of the Impressionists, it was the ability to portray the effects of outdoor light that was of such importance and which meant that the smoothness of the finished work, much valued in traditional painting, would give way for a more textured surface. Sisley 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.[2] This free, broken brushstroke became one of the hallmarks of the Impressionists and was wholeheartedly embraced by Loiseau and his fellow Post-Impressionists. Following Sisley’s example, through interweaving colours, and added texture, Loiseau built up his characteristic atmospheric landscapes.


In the late 1890s Loiseau embraced this Impressionist technique most profusely, as illustrated in in the present work. In Loiseau’s later career he would enhance this technique with his innovative use of en trellis brushwork developed from his influence of the pointillist techniques of Georges Seurat and Paul Signac. The early influence of these pointillist artists can be seen in the paint application of Les Peupliers. In the foreground, bold strokes of ochre, cadmium, mauve and green are juxtaposed, optically blending into a harmonious glistening wheat field. Through interweaving colours, and added texture, Loiseau became a master of forming an atmospheric landscape through a homogeneous and yet vibrating colour structure formed through his staccato-like brushwork.




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 a pivotal point in his career, and it was subsequently included in his very first solo exhibition at Galerie Durand-Ruel. The brushwork and vibrant colours of Les Peupliers reveal Loiseau’s profound skill in capturing the ambiance of nature. The vibrating colour harmonies of the field of golden wheat and the gestural brushstrokes of the gently swaying poplars enliven this sun drenched pastoral scene.


The motif of the poplar tree would appear frequently throughout Loiseau’s oeuvre and some of his most famous and highly regarded works are a development of the poplars that Loiseau captured at Nesle-la-Vallée in this majestic Les Peupliers of 1898. The paintings of Loiseau’s later years are characterised by the systematic exploration of a series of views of the same subject, a method deeply indebted to Monet, most notably Monet’s series of twenty-four views of poplars on the bank of the Epte in the spring of 1891. Focused upon a single compositional device, as Monet had achieved before him, Loiseau thoroughly investigated the different atmospheric conditions of one view point or landscape, capturing his subject in contrasting seasons.


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


[1] Exh. Cat. Paul Durand-Ruel et le post-impressionnisme, La Propriété Caillebotte, Paris, 2020, p.142

[2] M. A. Stevens, Alfred Sisley, Exh. Cat. Royal Academy, London, 1992, p.9

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