Fine Art

Henri Lebasque

French, 1865-1937

Bord de la mer cote d'azur

Oil on canvas
18 1/2 x 18 inches (47 x 45.7 cm)
Framed: 26 1/2 x 26 inches (67.3 x 66 cm)
Signed lower left: Lebasque


Hammer Galleries, New York
Trosby Galleries, Palm Beach
Private Collection, USA since the 1970s

Born in a small village near the Sarthe, Henri Lebasque enrolled as a student at his local art school, the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, in Angers. In 1886, he went to Paris and briefly studied under Bonnat. He later studied under Humbert and aided in his decorations of the Panthéon.

Lebasque made his début at the Salon des Indépendants in 1896 and also participated in the Salon des Artistes Français. In his youth, he frequently visited the aging Pissarro, who lived near Paris, and in his studio, he learned crucial lessons about line, form and color. Undoubtedly the influence of Pissarro upon Lebasque was far greater than that of Bonnat.

As the era of the first great Impressionists moved toward its close with Pissarro’s death in 1903, another era in French art began, with Lebasque participating in the inaugural exhibition at the Salon d’Automne, on whose committee he gave lifelong service. He was at one time wrongly classified with the Fauves, doubtless a result of his exhibiting alongside them in the Salon d’Automne during the exciting and innovative first few years of the 20th century.  At the Salon des Indépendants in 1893, he met Luce and Signac for the first time and under their influence adopted the Pointillist technique for some years.

By 1900, Lebasque was married. He settled with his family in Lagny to the east of Paris until 1906, mostly painting scenes along the wooded banks of the Marne. At about that time, he was introduced to the Midi by his friend Albert Manguin and the region wrought a dramatic transformation on his painting, from which he never turned back. He also spent much time painting in other far-flung regions of the land, in Vendée, Brittany, Normandy, Sanary (near Toulon) and Nice. For periods in 1912, 1915 and 1921 he lived in Les Andelys, on the Seine to the west of Paris and used the backdrop of steep chalky cliffs against the leafy river to great effect in his paintings. For more than thirty years he used members of his own family as models in his paintings and the artifacts, interiors, houses, gardens, riverbanks and beaches in his pictures were drawn from places where he stayed for long periods. After spending a few seasons in Saint-Tropez and Saint-Maxime, he finally decided on Le Cannet, and made his permanent home there in 1924.

Admiration as a fellow artist drew Lebasque to his friend and neighbor Bonnard, whose work bore a similarity in theme to his own. He was also acquainted with other leading artists of the day: Matisse, Rouault, Dufy, Valtat and Manguin, but his connections with them did not inflate his personality and neither did it eclipse his standing as an artist in his own right. He evolved a style all his own, creating a distinctly pleasing, understandable, and accessible way of painting. His subjects for the most part are landscapes, flowers, still-lifes, nudes and figures, always characterized by an attractive use of light and color. During Lebasque’s lifetime his work was widely admired by the public and was well received by the all-powerful critics of the time, whose opinions carried great weight. Lebasque worked on a few public projects, most notably the décor of the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. He died at le Cannet, Alpes-Maritimes in 1937 and in the same year, a group of his works was shown at the Exhibition of the Maîtres d’Art Indépendants at the Petit-Palais. Twenty years after his death, the Musée des Ponchettes in Nice held a retrospective and another exhibition in 1981 featured his work in St Paul-de-Vence.

This beach scene, Bord de la mer cote d'azur, is a lovely example of Lebasque’s work. His talent with color is evident in the gradating shades of the ocean, deep blues, turquoises, and touches of lavender standing out vibrantly against the pale tan and rose tones of the rocky shoreline. Bathers in the water and on the beach add a sense of liveliness to the composition; children play in the sand, a woman lounges under an orange parasol, others gambol in the ocean. Lebasque’s application of paint has a very soft quality, and this in combination with the bright and attractive colors lends the painting an overall calming tone.  This is truly a beautiful piece.