Pierre Eugene Montezin
Riviere bordee de Peupliers
Oil on canvas: 29.5(h) x 27.8(w) in / 74.9(h) x 70.5(w) cm
Paris 1874 – 1946 Moëlan-sur-Mer
Rivière bordée de peupliers
Signed lower right: Montézin
Oil on canvas: 29 ½ x 27 ¾ in / 74.9 x 70.5 cm
Painted circa 1925-30
Private collection, France, acquired in the 1950s
The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by Cyril Klein-Montézin, great-grandson of the artist
Pierre-Eugène Montézin followed in the tradition of Impressionism and had a distinguished career as a plein-air landscape painter. In 1932 he gained the Medal of Honour at the Salon des Artistes Français, the first landscape practitioner to do so for more than three decades.
Cyril Klein-Montézin dates this painting circa 1925-30. It depicts a village by a river in northern France, a favourite motif for Montézin. He employs an upright format and restricts the land to the top quarter of the painting, the better to explore the reflections in the water. The horizontal thrust provided by the brilliant green riverbank and the red-tiled, white cottages is held in tension by the verticals of the poplars and their reflections. Montézin plays with notions of depth and surface. The reflections of the trees, painted with long, loose brushwork, seem to plunge into the river, while waterlily pads float on its surface. Montézin works the surface of his canvas with quick flicks of purple, ochre, brown, deep green and pink, creating a sense of the myriad colours refracted out of the landscape.
The theme of a village by the side of a river bordered with poplars occurs frequently in the work of Alfred Sisley (1839-1899), whom Montézin greatly revered. After serving in the First World War Montézin spent time painting at Moret-sur-Loing, Sisley’s former home. He was also a great admirer of Monet and his poetic treatment of reflections and waterlilies, as well as the upright, almost square format of this painting, may owe a debt to Claude Monet’s (1840-1926) Nymphéas series.
Paris 1874 – 1946 Moëlan-sur-Mer
Pierre-Eugène Montézin was born in Paris in 1874, the son of a lace designer. He gained his lifelong love of nature from fishing and shooting trips to the countryside with his father. He was introduced to the arts at a young age and entered an atelier to learn mural painting. From 1893 he sent works to the Paris Salon, but had none accepted for a decade. Around 1903 Montézin gained a mentor in the landscape and flower painter Ernest Quost (1844-1931), who encouraged him to concentrate on drawing and painting and to study the theories of Impressionism. Montézin painted landscapes and rural scenes, always working en plein air with graceful, allusive brushwork. He also executed still lifes and portraits.
Montézin was awarded Salon medals in 1907 and 1910. He enlisted in the First World War and was awarded the Médaille Militaire for his part in the battles of the Meuse. After the War he spent a year painting at Dreux near Chartres and at Moret-sur-Loing, the former home of Alfred Sisley, whose work, along with Monet’s, he greatly revered. In 1920 he was awarded the Salon’s Prix Rosa Bonheur and three years later was made a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur. Montézin, his wife and daughter divided their time between Neuilly-sur-Seine and their house at Veneux-les-Sablons in the Ile de France, which Montézin decorated with a mural.
In 1932 Montézin gained the Medal of Honour at the Salon des Artistes Français, the first landscape painter to do so for more than three decades. He was elected President of the Salon the following year and had a highly successful exhibition at Galerie Charpentier. At a major exhibition at Durand-Ruel in 1938, the critic Louis Vauxcelles commented of Montézin’s work that ‘Each touch, each vibration weighs as a truth’. The following year Montézin executed a large mural for the Palais de Justice in Chambéry, south-eastern France, titled Les travaux des champs – la Justice et le Droit (in situ). He was elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1941 in place of Edouard Vuillard, who had died in 1940. Montézin retained his enthusiasm for plein-air landscape into his seventh decade, dying in 1946 while on a painting trip to Moëlan-sur-Mer in Brittany.
The work of Pierre-Eugène Montézin is represented in the Petit Palais, Paris; the Musée du Luxembourg, Paris; the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Dijon; the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux; the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington DC; the Ulster Museum, Belfast and Rochdale Art Gallery (Touchstone Rochdale).