La Frette en été
Oil on canvas: 25.7(h) x 32(w) in /
65.4(h) x 81.3(w) cm
Signed lower right: Marquet; titled and dated on the reverse
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Bordeaux 1875 – 1947 Paris
La Frette en été
Signed lower right: Marquet;
titled and dated on the reverse
Oil on panel: 25 ¾ x 32 in / 65.4 x 81.3 cm
Frame size: 35 ½ x 41 ½ in / 90.2 x 105.4 cm
Painted in 1939
René Dreyfus, Paris, in the 1940s
Private collection, France, in the 1970s;
by inheritance to Marcela Botnar, Paris;
by descent to a private collector, France
To be included in the forthcoming online catalogue raisonné of the work of Albert Marquet currently being prepared by the Wildenstein Plattner Institute
Albert Marquet lived on the banks of the Seine most of his life and became celebrated for his sensitive observation of Paris and its river. Fascinated by water, ports and coastline, he was also an inveterate traveller, visiting England, the USSR and North Africa, among other places, as well as exploring his native France.
La Frette-sur-Seine, known as ‘la Perle du Val d’Oise’, lies about twelve miles north-west of Paris, easily reached by the railway lines that fanned out from the capital in the nineteenth century. Its picturesque setting attracted Paul Cézanne and Paul Signac, among many other artists. Marquet rented a house overlooking the river bank in 1938, the year before the present work was painted. He spent the years of the Second World War between Paris, La Frette, the South of France and Algeria, quietly aiding the Résistance and the Forces Françaises Libres. After the War, Marquet and his wife Marcelle divided their time between Paris and La Frette. Marcelle said that La Frette was where Marquet felt most at home, and he is buried in the cemetery there, on the top of a hill overlooking his beloved Seine.
La Frette en été was painted in the last summer of peace from Marquet’s attic studio above the river. Its serenity, restraint and balance of geometrical precision and freedom is typical of the artist, who was influenced by Japanese art. Also highly characteristic is his subtle palette, with the blue-green, shadowed trees on the far bank contrasting with the dazzling yellow-green of the sunlit grass and foreground trees. Linear black underpins the composition, the vertical upthrust of the tree trunks held in tension against the diagonal of the kerb, which leads the eye into the picture. Marquet’s figures, half-anonymous, harmonise with and punctuate their setting.
Marquet painted this view in many moods, including a golden autumn day in Automne à La Frette, c.1945-6 (private collection, France) and on a grey day in Automne à La Frette, c.1945-6 (Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux).
Bordeaux 1875 – 1947 Paris
Albert Marquet was born in Bordeaux in 1875, the son of a railway employee. He went to Paris to study at the Ecole des Arts Décoratifs at the age of fifteen. Six years later he joined the studio of Gustave Moreau, where he met and forged lasting friendships with Camoin, Rouault, Manguin and Matisse. During this period Marquet began to use the vibrant colours and bold brushwork that is characteristic of the Fauves with whom he was closely associated. He exhibited at Berthe Weill and the Galerie Druet, Paris from 1902 and from 1903 at the Salon d’Automne.
After 1907 Marquet’s interest in Japonisme resulted in more sober works. He travelled extensively, frequently leaving his apartment on the banks of the Seine to visit England, Germany, Italy, the USSR, Scandinavia and North Africa, where he spent the years of the Second World War. He met his wife Marcelle Martinet, whom he married in 1923, on his first stay in Algiers in 1920.
The most profound influence on his work is that of the Impressionists, most notably Paul Cézanne. Like the Impressionists his favourite subjects were port scenes, beaches, quaysides, river views and coastal villages; he was particularly fascinated by the effect of light on water.
André Rouveyre, a fellow student in Gustave Moreau’s atelier, wrote: ‘Marquet reigns over the kingdom of light. The light that shines on the things of this world, of course, but also that which belongs to his pictures alone: a strangely regal quality that comes from his sensitivity and wisdom. Skies, hills, houses, streets all bathe in his subtle but intense lights’.
 Paris, Musée Carnavalet, Marquet: Vues de Paris et de l’Ile-de-France, 2004-5, p.74, no.59, illus. in colour.
 Musée Carnavalet, op. cit., p.75, no.61, illus. in colour.