Après-midi d’automne sur la maison du sabotier (The Wooden Shoemaker’s House)
Oil on canvas
31 x 41 inches (79 x 104 cm)
Framed: 41 ½ x 51 inches (105.5 x 129.5 cm)
Signed lower right:: Henri Martin
Henri-Jean Guillaume Martin was born in Toulouse in 1860 to a French cabinetmaker and a mother of Italian descent. Martin successfully persuaded his father to permit him to become an artist, and began his career in 1877 at the Toulouse School of the Fine Arts, where he was under the tutelage of Jules Garipuy (he was also a pupil of Henry-Eugéne Delacroix). In 1879, Martin relocated to Paris and with the help of a scholarship, was able to study in Jean-Paul Laurens' studio. Four years later, he received his first medal at the Paris Salon, where he would hold his first exhibition three years later in 1886.
The year after he won his first medal, Martin was awarded a scholarship for a tour in Italy, where he studied the early Renaissance work of masters such as Giotto and Masaccio. It was while touring Italy that Martin discovered a style involving a radically short brush technique that divided the picture plane in a multitude of small and highly visible strokes. In many ways the technique was reminiscent of that of Georges Seurat: some critics see Martin as absorbing the radical painting styles of the Impressionists and Post-impressionists yet using those styles to create highly conventional paintings.
His stay in Italy brought a new lyrical freedom to his work, and on his return to Paris in 1889, he began experimenting with Pointillism and turned almost exclusively to landscape. In 1889, Martin exhibited at La Fete de la Federation, where he was presented with a gold medal. By the 1890s, his works showed links with Symbolism and he exhibited at all the major venues of the Symbolist painters: the first Salon de la Rose Croix in 1892; the Munich Secessionist exhibition of 1893, La Libre Esthetique in Brussels in 1896 and the Vienna Secessionist exhibition of 1898. He was named Chevalier of the Legion of Honour in 1896, and in 1900 won the grand prize at the Exposition Universelle. In 1914, Martin was titled Commander of the Legion of Honour and became a member of the Institute in 1918. In 1939, he bought Marquayrol, a mansion overlooking La Bastide du Vert, near Cahors, producing his highly regarded late works in the new tranquil environment, and died there in 1943.
Although the title indicates the house portrayed to be the shoemaker’s, it is thought that this work may be of Martin’s house Marquayrol. Using feathery brushstrokes reminiscent of the style of Georges Seurat, the artist portrays an autumnal landscape dotted with trees. The palette of oranges and greens gives the composition a warm glow, but many of the trees are bare, indicating the coming winter. The house to the viewer’s right is large but unimposing, and its placement almost in the background indicates the trees are the work’s true subject.