Filled with bold colours and a great sense of light, Le Port d'Anvers dates from one of the most important moments in Friesz' artistic career. For it was during his journey with Braque in 1906 to Antwerp, his second to that city, that his Fauve style truly coalesced. Friesz had been surrounded by Fauve artists and Fauve influences for only a matter of months by the time that Le Port d'Anvers was painted. Now, electric fields and lines of swirling colour have been used to a highly expressive effect. This is a painterly Fauvism that shows Friesz' interest in a style and manner that is akin to the pictures of Matisse and, at this pre-Cubist period, Braque. For there is a great deal of modelling and modulation, and yet the picture bursts with light and colour and energy.
Friesz' 'conversion' had begun at the 1905 Salon d'Automne, when the word 'Fauve' was coined by the (disparaging) critic Louis Vauxcelles. Ironically, Vauxcelles gave great praise to the paintings that Friesz exhibited there, but this encouragement was to be ignored, because Friesz was blown away by the room in which the Fauves had their pictures exhibited, and following this revelation became increasingly involved in their circle. Indeed, he spent a great amount of time with Matisse in particular and had a studio in the same building as him. Le Port d'Anvers was therefore painted at the very highpoint and at the heart of the brief but highly influential Fauve period.
Several paintings from this important second visit to Antwerp clearly took the same vantage point as Le Port d'Anvers, showing the same terrace in the foreground, the same buildings in the background. However, Le Port d'Anvers is notable for the amount of activity that is shown on the water. On the one hand, this gives the work a sense of the bustle of a busy harbour; and on the other, it provides him with an excellent pretext to fill the work with more colour, more reflections and more darting verticals in the form of the numerous masts.
Le port d'Anvers
Oil on canvas
PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE SWISS COLLECTION
Signed, dated and inscribed 'E Othon Friesz Anvers 1906' (lower right)
Emile Othon Friesz
1900s, Paintings, canvas, Antwerp/Anvers, Impressionist, townscape
Bern, Kunsthalle, Les Fauves und die Zeitgenossen, April - May 1950, no. 423.
Paris, Galerie Charpentier, Rétrospective Friesz, December 1950, no. 30.
Geneva, Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Othon Friesz, July - September 1953, no. 20.
Lyon, Musée des Beaux-Arts, E. Othon Friesz, October - December 1953, no. 10.
Paris, Musée Galliéra, Othon Friesz, October - November 1959, no. 9 (illustrated pl. 3).
Los Angeles, County Museum of Art, The Fauve Landscape: Matisse, Derain, Braque and Their Circle, 1904-1908, October - December 1990 (illustrated, p. 300, pl. 315); this exhibition later travelled to New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, February - May 1991 and London, The Royal Academy of Arts, June - September 1991.
IMPRESSIONIST & MODERN ART
31 7/8 x 39 3/8 in. (81 x 100 cm.)
F. Fleuret, A. Salmon & C. Vildrac, Friesz: oeuvres (1901-1927), Paris, 1927, p. 31 (illustrated pl. IV).
M. Gauthier, Othon Friesz, Geneva, 1957, no. 12 (illustrated).
U. Apollonio, Fauves e Cubisti, Bergamo, 1959 (illustrated p. 35). J. Freeman, The Fauve Landscape, New York, 1990 (illustrated pl. 315).
R. Martin & O. Aittouarès, Emile-Othon Friesz: L'oeuvre peint, vol. I, Paris, 1995, no. 34 (illustrated p. 60).
J. Freeman, Fauves, London, 1995, no. 51, p. 148 (illustrated p. 149).
Edouard Pierrot, Paris.
Collection Pacquereau, by 1927.
Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, by circa 1959.
Galerie Daniel Malingue, Paris.
Anonymous sale, Christie's, New York, 3 November 1981, lot 5.
Acquired at the above sale by the father of the present owner, and thence by descent.