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Henri Le Sidaner - Maisons au soleil, Villefranche-sur-mer

Henri Le Sidaner

Maisons au soleil, Villefranche-sur-mer

Oil on canvas: 26(h) x 32(w) in / 66(h) x 81.3(w) cm
Signed lower right: Le Sidaner

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 Port-Louis 1862 - 1939 Versailles

Ref: BZ 179


Maisons au soleil, Villefranche-sur-mer


Signed lower right: Le Sidaner

Oil on canvas: 26 x 32 in / 66 x 81.3 cm

Frame Size: 36 x 42 in / 91.4 x 106.7 cm


In its original gilded composition frame


Painted in 1927






Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, inv. no.9990

M Knoedler & Co., Paris (no.16773 and 8000), by whom acquired from the above on 25th March 1927

Acquired circa 1970 by a private collector, USA;

by descent



Yann Farinaux-Le Sidaner, Le Sidaner, L’Oeuvre Peint et Gravé, Editions André Sauret, Paris 1989, p.226, no.610, illus.



Henri Le Sidaner spent the first ten years of his life amid the tropical vegetation of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, before moving to Dunkirk in northern France. There was always a part of his soul that hankered after the heat and light of the South. In 1910 he stayed with his son Louis (nicknamed Petit Ri) in Beaulieu-sur-Mer on the French Riviera. The boy was in delicate health and his doctor had advised wintering in a temperate climate. Enchanted by the light, Le Sidaner spent many sojourns in the south of France until the end of his life.


Every year from 1923 to 1928 Le Sidaner stayed with his family at the Hôtel Welcome at Villefranche-sur-Mer, a mellow old fishing port east of Nice and six miles south-west of Monaco. It was also a favourite haunt of Jean Cocteau, although it is doubtful that the enfant terrible and the gentle, conservative Le Sidaner would have had anything in common. Le Sidaner’s great-grandson Yann Farinaux-Le Sidaner comments that the artist ‘liked to stroll on the quay. He could not find a happier setting than its beautifully coloured houses and its old walls arranged proudly on the water’s edge’[1].


In this painting Le Sidaner employs his sensitivity to tonal juxtapositions and harmonious composition to conjure up the languorous atmosphere of Villefranche in the late afternoon sun. The light reaches its deepest intensity just before the heure bleue of the Mediterranean evening. The shadowed foreground pulsates with subdued touches of colour – lilac, purple, green, blue and grey – throwing into relief the golden haze of blocklike, sunlit houses on the edge of the bay. The stuccoed walls are formed from an interweaving of pink, yellow, deep orange, offset with the eau-de-nil and chartreuse greens of the shutters. On the other side of the water, the pink of the sun-warmed landscape is striated with green. As is usual with Le Sidaner, human presence is implied, not seen. With his unique, mysterious and poetic vision, Le Sidaner evokes the magic of the Riviera. 



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.




[1] Henri Le Sidaner: Paysages Intimes, Saint-Rémy-en-l’Eau 2013, p.182.