HENRI LE SIDANER
Port-Louis 1862 - 1939 Versailles
La nappe mauve, Villefranche-sur-Mer
Signed lower right: Le Sidaner Oil on canvas: 25 ¾ x 31 ¾ in / 65.4 x 80.6 cm
Frame size: 33 x 39 in / 83.8 x 99.1 cm
Painted in 1929
Galerie Daniel Malingue, Paris Private collection Sotheby’s London, December 5th, 1990, lot 122;
Mrs Paul Mellon (1910-2014)
Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute, Henri Le Sidaner, October 1930, no.258 Brussels, Galerie des Artistes Français, Exposition Le Sidaner, October 1931, no.24
Yann Farinaux-Le Sidaner, Le Sidaner, L’Oeuvre peint et gravé, Paris 1989, p.248, no.671, illus. Yann Farinaux-Le Sidaner, Henri Le Sidaner, Paysages intimes, Saint-Rémy-en l’Eau 2013, p.191, illus. in colour
Henri Le Sidaner first stayed at Villefranche-sur-Mer, a couple of miles east of Nice, in 1910, seeking a temperate winter for his son Henri, who was recovering from an operation. Like many artists based in the north of France, including Cross, Signac and Bonnard, Le Sidaner was enraptured by the light of the Midi. He later wistfully commented: ‘J’ai hâte de retrouver l’enchantement de cette lumière que mes yeux ont appris à aimer et de retrouver un moment la douceur de vivre en échappent aux hivers perdus dans la pluie’. Le Sidaner’s childhood memories were of luxuriant vegetation and intense light, a complete absence of winter, as he had spent his first ten years in the French colonial island of Mauritius.
In the 1920s Le Sidaner made annual visits to Villefranche, staying at the Hôtel Welcome in the Old Port, overlooking the bay. Ironically, it was also a haunt of Jean Cocteau and the Bright Young Things of the Jazz Age, who were very different in spirit from the gentle Le Sidaner. The journalist Parisis, a fellow Mauritian, wrote that Le Sidaner had ‘rien de l’exubérance du créole; tout, dans Le Sidaner semble respirer le calme, l’intimité, le silence meme, comme dans ses tableaux’.
This exquisite painting of 1929 combines two of Le Sidaner’s favourite themes: a view from a balcony looking out and the intense, mysterious state of Mediterranean twilight. As the sun goes down, blue light fills the bay, the purples of the tablecloth and teapot pulsate and the orange cup and flowers glow in the low rays. Across the bay, the lights of Cap Ferrat begin to glimmer, while the maquis behind subsides into blue-green darkness.
As so often in Le Sidaner’s works, a well-ordered human presence is implicit – but not overt – in the flower vase and table laid for one. Paul Signac noted: ‘toute son oeuvre est marquee par le gout des atmosphères tendres, douces, silencieuses. Il va même peu à peu jusqu’à supprimer de ses toiles tous les personnages, comme s’il craignait que la moindre silhouette humaine vienne en troubler le silence ouaté’.
Le Sidaner employs his own highly original interpretation of Neo-Impressionist technique, weaving across the canvas juxtaposed touches of contrasting colours, such as the mauve and orange in the foreground tablecloth and the green and blue of the water. The mauve shadows of the tablecloth find an echo in the deeper purple shadows that frame the balcony, while the hot colours of the teacup and flowers are answered by the harbour light from Cap Ferrat. By this stage in his career, Le Sidaner inclines to an even greater simplicity and serenity of composition, using colour to manipulate mood as well as to record natural phenomena.
HENRI LE SIDANER
Port-Louis 1862 - 1939 Versailles
Henri Le Sidaner was born in Port Louis, Mauritius in 1862, the son of a shipbroker of Breton descent. At the age of ten his family moved to Dunkirk and in 1880, after the death of his father, to Paris. Le Sidaner entered the studio of Alexandre Cabanel at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1884, but was more inspired by Manet than by his master’s dry academicism.
In 1889 he moved to Etaples, where he met the painters Eugène Chigot and Henri Duhem, who were to remain lifelong friends. Le Sidaner made plein-air paintings of Breton peasants and fishermen in a subdued palette.
In 1892 a grant allowed him to paint in Florence, Venice and Katwijk in Holland. In 1894 he settled in Paris, transferring his allegiance from the Salon to the more avant-garde Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. In this period Le Sidaner produced paintings such as the 1896 Morning (Musée de Dunkerque) and Twilight (private collection), which combine elements of Impressionist technique with Symbolist themes. That year he signed a contract with the Mancini Gallery.
In 1898 Le Sidaner turned decisively towards the highly individual style, building on the innovations of Impressionism, that would characterise his work for the rest of his life. In 1898 he went to Bruges with his lover Camille; their son Louis was born in Paris in October, although the couple was based in Bruges for another year. In 1899 they returned to Paris and Le Sidaner became one of the group of artists represented by Galeries Georges Petit, which would give him financial stability and remain his dealer until 1930.
Le Sidaner, keen to buy a country house around which he could develop a garden, was advised by Rodin to visit the terrain near Beauvais. In 1901 he rented a cottage in the picturesque town of Gerberoy (Seine et Oise). He bought it in 1904 and in 1910 greatly enlarged the house, creating a paradisiacal garden which provided the inspiration for many of his later paintings. Le Sidaner developed a poetic style of Post-Impressionism which explores the qualities of light and objects through harmonies and counterpoint of subtle tones. After 1900 he rarely included figures in his paintings, implying human presence through his interest in depicting a community of ancient houses, or a table set for tea. Le Sidaner’s works, with their evocation of mood and emotional engagement with landscape, have affinities with the music of ‘Impressionist’ composers such as Claude Debussy.
Le Sidaner travelled in search of new motifs, wintering in Venice or London to escape the freezing cold of Gerberoy. From 1914 his family was based at a comfortable house in Versailles and summered in Gerberoy. From around 1920 his paintings employ a lighter palette and sparer, more dreamlike compositions. He was awarded the Légion d’Honneur in 1913 and the First Prize at the 1925 Pittsburgh International. Henri Le Sidaner died in Paris in 1939.
 Quoted in Farinaux-Le Sidaner 2013, op. cit., p.178.
 Quoted in ibid., p.183.
 Quoted in Farinaux-Le Sidaner 1989, op. cit., p.30.