Maurice de Vlaminck
(Paris, 1876-1958, Rueil-la-Gadelière)
Barge on the Seine near Le Pecq, 1906
Oil on canvas, 65 x 92 cm
Signed lower right: Vlaminck
Vallès-Bled 144
Maurice de Vlaminck's early paintings are a good example of how a younger generation took inspiration from the work of the great post-Impressionists. His first encounter with van Gogh's paintings was in 1901, in an exhibition held at the Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, in Paris. The painting Barge on the Seine shows how Vlaminck applied the lessons of what he had seen there, interpreting his subject much more radically than before. It is easy to imagine him squeezing unmixed paints from the tube onto his palette and then transforming the path and meadow along the river into blocks of colour with broad brushstrokes. The colour of what was actually there is no more than a distant memory. If the artist feels that a tree trunk in red will better convey what he wants to express, then he paints it red – in effective contrast to the white clouds shadowed behind it. Only in one respect does Vlaminck stick to reproducing what he sees of Nature here, using vertical brushstrokes to hint at reflections on the calm surface of the gently flowing River Seine. At the start of his career, Vlaminck benefited hugely from the opportunity to exhibit his paintings at the annual Salon d'automne in Paris. There he not only met other artists with an equally radical approach, but could make his work known to a public that eagerly followed new developments in contemporary painting. It was a critic reviewing one of these Salons who inadvertently provided a name for these artists as a group: Les Fauves, meaning 'the wild beasts'. The objects of his contempt proudly adopted what had been meant as an insult, taking it as their motto for a style of painting that would not be bound by any considerations.