Fine Art

Henri Martin

French, 1860-1943

La Vallée du Vert, la chèvriere

c. 1920-30
Oil on canvas
27 x 37 inches (68 x 95 cm)
Framed: 37 x 47 inches (93 x 119 cm)
Signed lower left: Henri Martin


Beaussant Lefevre, June 2010
Dr. Noth, Ansbach
Private collection, Germany

This painting is sold with a Certificate of Authenticity from Cyrille 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. He was given several state commissioned projects, including the prestigious murals in the Capitol in Toulouse, a triptych for the staircase in the Prefecture du Lot in Cahors and in addition a war memorial also in Cahors. 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.

Martin was one of the few painters who after having embraced the French divisionism in painting used it until the end of his artist days. Around the turn of the century Martin focused on the surroundings of La Bastide-du-Vert (situated about 100 km from Toulouse) where he lived and worked. His house and studio “Marquayrol” overlooked the beautiful valley of the river Lot and the village. Martin would paint this ever-changing landscape many times in all seasons and on different moments of the day.

Martin’s portrayal of La Vallée du Vert presents a vibrant scene full of color. His use of thick impasto renders the scene full of life and movement. In the scene, a cool blue stream flows through the picture, surrounded by tall trees. A woman walks along the stream, followed by a brown and white goat, lending the painting part of its name – la chèvriere. Verdant grass in all possible shades of green line the stream’s banks, and dots of color and white seem to indicate flowers. In the hills beyond, the palette is very different, ablaze with oranges, purples and yellows. This combination suggests that Fall has arrived at the higher altitudes beyond and foreshadows the seasonal fate of the foreground trees. The work is masterful, both in the texture created by the artist’s careful brushstrokes and the use of light and color in nature. The resulting image truly captures the serene beauty of nature.