Hightlights of the exhibition

Henri Matisse, Game of Bowls, 1908

Henri Matisse, Game of Bowls, 1908 © Succession H. Matisse c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

Matisse’s oeuvre includes several series on the same subjects, featuring the same motifs. Around 1908, for example, he painted a cycle of works on the theme ‘The Golden Age’. These large canvases present simply painted nude figures dancing, making music and playing games in an abstract blue and green landscape. These figures playing bowls apparently represent primitive man and ‘the game of life’. With its intuitively chosen colours, the picture clearly displays Matisse’s exploration of the decorative aspects of painting. The artist had difficulty achieving a unified composition. Shchukin had to wait a long time for the work but was delighted by its ‘freshness and nobility’.

Henri Matisse, The Red Room (Harmony in Red), 1908

Henri Matisse, The Red Room (Harmony in Red), 1908 © Succession H. Matisse c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

Matisse spent a considerable time on his paintings. The red room underwent a particularly rigorous transformation during its production. Matisse had initially started the canvas in blue, the colour best suited to Shchukin’s dining room for which the work was intended. Shortly before the picture was to be exhibited, however, Matisse painted it over in blue, without consulting his patron, as he thought it ‘not decorative enough’. You can still see traces of blue paint around the edges. The picture is the first work of art to be so emphatically dominated by red and represents an important step in Matisse’s exploration of painting’s decorative capabilities. It is to Shchukin’s credit that he immediately recognized its significance.

Henri Matisse, Still Life with Blue Tablecloth, 1906

Henri Matisse, Still life with Blue Tablecloth, 1909 © Succession H. Matisse c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

As a child Matisse was familiar with fabrics thanks to the flourishing textile industry in his native town of Le Cateau-Cambrésis. He later discovered toile de Jouy, a blue or red fabric with pastoral and floral motifs, produced in the neighbourhood of Versailles. These motifs play a role in a number of his paintings, in the form of stylised arabesques. By presenting the fabric as both tablecloth and background, Matisse has emphasised the two-dimensional picture plane which is further accentuated by the absence of shadows. The orange and ochre contrast vividly with the surrounding blue. The canvas is sometimes regarded as a postscript to The Red Room, in which Matisse also used the same fabric as his starting point.

Albert Marquet, The Port of Hamburg, 1908

© Albert Marquet, The Port of Hamburg, 1908, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

Marquet grew up in Bordeaux and became fascinated with ships at an early age. He later travelled a great deal, visiting port cities such as Marseille and Le Havre, Venice and Naples. Over a two-month period in the winter of 1909 he painted 13 versions of the port of Hamburg. In this version the almost naively rendered tugboat is bright red, although the artist had tempered his colours since 1906. Marquet would eventually develop his own style, characterised by fluid, merging tones, loose brushstrokes and an almost total lack of detail. His atmospheric, structured compositions made his work highly popular with collectors.

Albert Marquet, The Port of Hamburg, 1908

© Albert Marquet, The Port of Hamburg, 1908, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

Vasily Kandinsky, Composition VI, 1913

© Vasily Kandinsky, Composition VI, 1913, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

Kandinsky painted this dynamic colour symphony on the eve of the First World War. Although the painting is based on the theme of Noah’s Flood, it is regarded as the artist’s first entirely abstract work. The picture seems to be an extreme development of the ‘open emotionality’ sought by painters in the early twentieth century. Kandinsky believed that there were three forms of abstraction: impression, or the processing of observations and effects, improvisation, which appeared suddenly and unconsciously, and finally composition, the ‘highest synthesis of consciousness, intuition, experience and emotion’. The artist regarded himself as a medium who channelled the form of an art work from a higher force.

Vasily Kandinsky, Winter Landscape, 1909

© Vasily Kandinsky, Winter Landscape, 1909, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

Colour played a major role in Kandinsky’s progress towards abstract art. It is said that he once saw one of his paintings standing upside down against a wall and thought it ‘indescribably and overwhelmingly beautiful’ … it represented no recognizable object, it was exclusively composed of luminous patches of colour …’. The extreme colour contrasts and vertical and horizontal lines in this painting emphasise the work’s two-dimensional character. The yellow house in the centre stands out sharply against its dark surroundings. The blue, yellow and green brushstrokes in the sky are echoed in the foreground.

Kees van Dongen, Lady in a Black Hat, 1908

© Kees van Dongen, Lady in a Black Hat, 1908, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

From 1905 Van Dongen painted many pictures of actresses, circus artistes and prostitutes in Montmartre. He was fascinated by the fringes of society and once said of his subject choice: ‘Despair is a toy with which we juggle.’ Van Dongen’s intention was not to paint a good likeness of an individual but to represent types, in this case the ‘femme fatale’. He has given his subject almond-shaped eyes and brightly coloured lips. She forms part of a series of women in predominantly green and black tones painted by Van Dongen in 1908. The identity of his model is unknown. Her heavy, ink-black hat was a fashion accessory normally worn by the beau monde.

Kees van Dongen, Spring, 1908

© Kees van Dongen, Spring, 1908, co Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

Pablo Picasso, The Absinthe Drinker, 1901

© Pablo Picasso, The Absinthe Drinker, 1901, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

In the period 1900-4 Picasso alternated between Barcelona and Paris. The young painter drew his inspiration from the night life of the two cities and moved in bohemian and artist circles. In Montmartre, where he took up residence in 1904, he painted both stylish women and lonely figures in cafés. The coarse canvas and large areas of colour in this picture recall the work of Gauguin, the expressive lines that of Toulouse-Lautrec. The thin, unhealthy-looking woman peers fixedly at the tempting drink. Her hands are like claws. Picasso gave her hair the same form as the headgear worn by sick prostitutes in prison at this time

Pablo Picasso, Table in a Café (Bottle of Pernod), 1912

© Pablo Picasso, Tafeltje in een café (Fles pernod en glas), 1912, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

Picasso and Braque collaborated closely in the period before the First World War. The style of their work from 1910 and 1911, known as ‘Analytical Cubism’, comprises sober colours and fragmented forms. Picasso sometimes spoke of ‘broken mirrors’. The majority of the works Picasso and Braque produced between 1912 and 1914 are in the style of ‘Synthetic Cubism’, with images constructed of individual elements, sometimes in the form of collages of newspaper clippings or other materials. Picasso regarded art as ‘a language of symbols’. In this still-life he has played with painted letters. The warm tone of the table top with its conspicuous wood structure contrasts with the pastel tints. The green refers to pernod.

Pablo Picasso, Woman with a Fan, 1907-1908

© Pablo Picasso, Woman with a Fan, 1907-1908, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

Picasso regularly painted nude and seated women. He produced this dynamic figure piece in 1908, from sketches from a model, and only introduced the geometric distortions and architectural structure as he worked on the canvas. The woman, represented from the front, seems to defy the standards of decency that prevailed when they painted. Woman with a Fan could be interpreted as a parody on the popular salon paintings of the period.

Marie Laurencin, La Bacchante, 1911

© Marie Laurencin, La Bacchante, 1911, co Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

Chaim Soutine, Self-portrait, 1920-1921

© Chaim Soutine, Self-portrait, 1920-1921, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

This intriguing self-portrait is the only work by Soutine in Russian possession. In 1913 the artist settled in France where he would spend the rest of his life. His star began to rise in the early 1920s. Soutine’s expressive style, with its use of impasto and slightly contorted figures in bright colours, later influenced artists such as the American abstract-expressionists. The eccentric painter’s raw self-portrait in yellow and green may be a good likeness, given the description of his character by a contemporary as ‘wild, stormy and full of extravagance’, yet ‘essentially quiet, humble and almost painfully shy’.

Kazimir Malevich, Black Square, ca. 1930

Kazimir Malevich, Black Square, ca. 1930– ‘Staatsmuseum Hermitage St.-Petersburg’

Experts date this fourth and final version of Black Square to circa 1932. The first version had caused quite a stir at an exhibition in Petrograd (St Petersburg), for it had been displayed in the ‘beautiful corner’ always reserved for Russian icons. Moreover Malevich had deliberately entitled his new style ‘Suprematism’, from the Latin supremus, or supreme. His aim was to paint ‘a feeling of non-objectivity’, or, as he once explained: ‘the black square = feeling, the white plane = the emptiness beyond this feeling’. Malevich believed that only geometric forms were capable of manifesting such ‘non-objectivity’ in art.

Henri Matisse, Woman in Green, ca 1909

Henri Matisse, Woman in Green, ca 1909 © Succession H. Matisse c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

Kees van Dongen, Lucie and her Dance-Partner, 1911

© Kees van Dongen, Lucie and her Dance-Partner, 1911, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

Van Dongen chose simple compositions for his paintings of figures from Paris nightlife. He generally represented his models from the front, in dynamic poses and excessively smart clothing. They occupy the majority of the picture plane and stand out well against the monotone background. The artist has used a broad black line to merge the two figures in this painting into a single unit. The brightly coloured orange seems to pull Ginnadu Taïru, Lucie’s dance partner, out of the background. Lucie herself seems almost trapped in the decorative pattern of the brightly coloured shawl around her shoulders. Van Dongen has used this device to emphasise the work’s limited depth and flat picture plan. The painting was formerly known as ‘Dancer with negro’.

Henri Matisse, Study of a Foot, 1909-1910

Henri Matisse, Study of a Foot, 1909-1910 © Succession H. Matisse c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

Although Matisse regarded his sculptures as autonomous artworks, they sometimes recall elements from his paintings. Study of a Foot, for example, resembles the foot of the second woman to the left in Dance. Matisse’s development as a sculptor was also influenced by the robust bronze nudes of Aristide Maillol (1861-1944) whom he met in 1905. The artist increasingly addressed the theme of the human figure In the period after 1908. This is the year in which he founded the Académie Matisse in Paris, where he taught young, mostly foreign, artists to paint and sculpt. In his own sculptures Matisse endeavoured to obtain balance and contrast, rather than anatomical perfection. This was Maillol’s aim too.

Maurice de Vlaminck, Small Town on the Seine, ca 1909

© Maurice de Vlaminck, Small Town on the Seine, ca 1909, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

Vlaminck attached increasing importance to composition as a result of studying Cézanne’s work. It also inspired him to simplify his forms and tone down his colours. This serene landscape is based on a classic composition with coulisses. On either side of the canvas trees play the role of side scenery on a stage, directing our gaze towards the little town in the background. Vlaminck probably painted this picture in the countryside around Bougival, where he worked in 1909 and 1910. Gallery proprietor Ambroise Vollard regularly displayed Vlaminck’s paintings in this period, allowing the painter to focus all his attention on his art.

Henri Manguin, Composition VI, 1913

© Henri Manguin, Composition VI, 1913, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

Manguin’s characteristic joie de vivre, or pleasure in life, was naturally reflected in his art. He liked to go out early in the morning to paint in the open air. The jubilant orange, red and pink in this painting suggest that his primary intention was to capture the morning sunlight. Although the painter consciously experimented with pure colours, he never allowed these to become strident, and his compositions remained harmonious and identifiable. The red earth is another striking feature of the landscape. This triumph of colour is so distracting it almost blinds us to the presence of his wife and model, Jeanne.

Albert Marquet, Rainy Day in Paris (Nôtre-Dame Cathedral), 1910

© Albert Marquet, Rainy Day in Paris (Nôtre-Dame Cathedral), 1910, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

In 1908 Marquet moved into Matisse’s old studio, on the sixth floor of a building on Quai Saint-Michel in Paris. It was expensive but had a magnificent view of the Seine and Notre-Dame. Marquet painted this view many times, in ever-changing compositions. This picture features the misty, rainy, gray atmosphere that appears in many of the artist’s paintings. Marquet has used a single brushstroke to represent the people walking below his window on the rain-soaked quay. The dynamic composition leads our attention to the cathedral and the row of elegant buildings which play a leading role in the painting, together with the water.

Georges Rouault, Spring, 1911

© Georges Rouault, Spring, 1911, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

At the end of the nineteenth century Van Dongen moved to Paris where he quickly became one of the avant-garde. He exhibited work alongside contemporaries such as Matisse and Derain at the infamous Salon d’Automne of 1905, where the ‘Fauves’ caused a sensation. Although Van Dongen painted relatively few landscapes, unlike the majority of the Fauves, Spring is a fine example of his style in this period. He used a palette knife to apply the paint for the white blossom extra thickly, thereby creating a striking contrast with the thin, transparent top layer. The flat picture plane is emphasised by the areas of unpainted ground. The tree in blossom motif recalls the little peach tree which Van Gogh, the other Dutch artist who worked in France, painted in 1888 and dedicated to his uncle, the painter Anton Mauve.

Othon Friesz, The Temptation (Adam and Eve), 1910

© Othon Friesz, The Temptation (Adam and Eve), 1910, ‘Staatsmuseum Hermitage St.-Petersburg’

Maurice Utrillo, Rue Custine in Montmartre, 1909-1910

© Maurice Utrillo, Rue Custine in Montmartre, 1909-1910, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

Net als de impressionisten vóór hem schilderde Utrillo graag Parijse stadsgezichten. Bij hem vinden we echter geen vluchtige, beweeglijke impressies van straten en pleinen vol mensen en verkeer. Utrillo vereeuwigde bij voorkeur de statische monumentaliteit van gebouwen in desolate straten, onder meer in zijn eigen woonwijk Montmartre. Hij baseerde zich daarbij het liefst op foto’s op ansichtkaarten, die hem het uitgangspunt voor een stevige compositie boden. Tussen 1907 en 1914 gebruikte hij wit als verbindend element in zijn schilderijen. Behalve de dominantie van het wit en de scherpe contouren vallen op dit werk vooral de ramen op. Ze lijken de alziende ogen van de gebouwen.

Raoul Dufy, Portrait of Susanne Dufy, 1904

© Raoul Dufy, Portrait of Susanne Dufy, sister of the painter, 1904, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

In the early years of the twentieth century Dufy was already using loose brushstrokes and contrasting, strikingly limpid planes of colour. In this small portrait of his sister Suzanne, which achieves a monumental effect, Dufy has incorporated a powerful contrast between the red of her dress and hair and the light-blue background. This contrast creates a freshness that the artist seems to have patented in this period. Photos show that the portrait is a good likeness of his sister. Van Gogh was Dufy’s chief source of inspiration at this time.

Charles Guérin, Nude, 1910

© Charles Guérin, Nude, 1910, ‘Staatsmuseum Hermitage St.-Petersburg’

As a student of Gustave Moreau, Guérin learned to exploit the decorative effects of colour without obvious experimentation. He honed his skills by copying old masters in the Louvre. In his work he remained true to identifiable form and his palette was harmonious rather than bold, despite fauve influences. Shchukin was particularly enthusiastic about Guérin, who represented his models in attractive poses. This model poses serenely, apparently untroubled by the large, fashionable hat which forms a provocative contrast with her nude body.

André Derain, Still Life with Skull, 1912

© André Derain, Still Life with Skull, 1912, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

Pablo Picasso, Boy with a Dog, 1905

© Pablo Picasso, Boy with a Dog, 1905, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

Picasso initially painted melancholy subjects in cool, predominantly blue tones. Around 1905 he switched to a warmer, generally rose palette to depict travelling musicians and circus artistes. The artist regularly visited the popular Circus Medrano with his girlfriend Fernande Olivier. He produced several versions of Boy with a Dog, in a Neoclassical linear style, as studies for the painting Family of Saltimbanques (now in Washington, DC).

Alexey Javlensky, Landscape with a Red Roof, 1911

© Alexey Javlensky, Landscape with a Red Roof, 1911, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

Jawlensky worked with his friend and compatriot Kandinsky in Munich and Murnau. His path towards non-figurative art was particularly influenced by the work of Cézanne, Van Gogh, Gauguin and Matisse, with whom he collaborated for a time. He also derived inspiration from Russian folk art and icons. Like many of the artists he worked alongside in Germany, Jawlensky regarded colour as the best pictorial resource for shaking off the yoke of realistic representation. A striking feature of this landscape is the opposition between warm and cold colours. Red endeavours to push to the front and is barely restrained by its complementary, green.

Henri Le Fauconnier, The Signal, 1915

© Henri Le Fauconnier, The Signal, 1915, ‘Staatsmuseum Hermitage St.-Petersburg’

Le Fauconnier spent the First World War in the Netherlands where he joined Het Signaal (The Signal), a pacifist organisation of painters and writers. The French artist served as an intermediary between international and local Dutch art. His painting The Signal was well received. Jan Toorop praised the picture’s ‘psychological quality’ and Le Fauconnier himself later described it as ‘one of my most characteristic works’. Swathed in plumes of smoke a worker with a handlebar moustache and outstretched neck walks resolutely away from a dark tunnel in the background. Le Fauconnier distorted the proportions and perspective to obtain the required ‘language of sensitivity’. Critics interpreted the large, disturbing area of red paint as a warning against violence.

Amédée Ozenfant, Still Life with Dishes, 1920

© Amédée Ozenfant, Still Life with Dishes, 1920, c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2010

This restful, flat still life is regarded as one of the finest examples of Ozenfant’s Purism. Ozenfant himself introduced this ‘ism’ in 1918, in the manifesto After Cubism which he wrote together with the renowned architect Le Corbusier. Ozenfant’s aim was to produce an entirely rational art, stripped of every kind of subjectivity. In the industrial age in which he lived, the painter and theoretician proved a fervent supporter of the mass production of objective, rational forms. Ozenfant endeavoured to paint his still lives without the intervention of any kind of personal interpretation. They always incorporate the same sharply drawn contours around the same geometric glasses and bottles, and always lack human figures to drink from them.

Interior Maison Shukin

Interior Maison Shukin

Sergey Ivanovich Shchukin

Sergey Ivanovich Shchukin. Photograph. 1913

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