Vue de Belle-île by Henri Matisse

  • Vue de Belle-île captures the sublime beauty its namesake–a small island off of the Brittany coast
  • This exquisite composition is a rare early painting from the Matisse' prolific body of work
  • This painting was exhibited at the Palais des Beaux-arts in 1950
  • Henri Matisse is widely regarded as one of the most important artists of the 20th century
  • Get complete item description here
Item No. 31-6195

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Henri Matisse
1869-1954 | French

Vue de Belle-île

Signed "Henri Matisse" (lower right)

Oil on canvas

A kaleidoscope of color and texture, Henri Matisse’s Vue de Belle-île captures the sublime beauty its namesake–a small island off of the Brittany coast. A rare early painting from the artist’s prolific body of work, this composition reflects a pivotal moment in the artist’s career when he began to turn away from the traditional style and muted colors he practiced in the Beaux-Arts studio of Gustave Moreau and experiment with a more vibrant and creative palette.

Matisse made his first pilgrimage to Belle-île in 1895. Initially, the task of capturing the unbridled power of the rough seas and rugged coast intimidated the young painter, and he quickly left. Matisse returned the following summer, determined to brave the elements with an open mind and master his renderings of the seaside landscape. Matisse befriended John Peter Russell, an experimental Impressionist painter who had founded an artists colony on the small island that was frequented by Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh. Soon, he became a critical mentor to the younger Matisse. Russell taught Matisse how to utilize the island’s diverse topography and climate to study the nuance of both tone and light.

Matisse’s Vue de Belle-île is a celebration of color and texture. White-washed structures glow with purple and pink refractions of the afternoon sun. Green hillsides are speckled with strokes of orange and splashes of yellow. Punctuated by painterly brushstrokes that alternate from short Divisionist-like lines to saturated swathes of paint, this colorist work nearly veers into abstraction.

Belle-Île offered Matisse a secluded retreat away from the salons of Paris where he could meditate on his artistic practice. The works he created during his pivotal summers on the island offer a rare glimpse into the artist’s mind as he found his singular artistic voice. These coveted compositions reveal Matisse’s nascent early genius as an experimental colorist who, as MoMA curator John Elderfield surmises, “used color not to imitate light, but to create it.”

Vue de Belle-île was exhibited at the Palais des Beaux-arts in Lille in 1950 for the important exhibition Un Demi-siècle de peinture française 1900-1950. Additional paintings from Matisse’s time at Belle-Île are held in the collections at the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux in France and the Dixon Garden and Galleries in Memphis, Tennessee. The painting is accompanied by a coveted certificate of authentication from Wanda de Guebriant, the foremost Matisse expert who succeeded Matisse's daughter as the only authorized authenticator of Matisse’s work from 1982 until her death in 2019.

Henri Matisse is widely regarded as one of the most important and celebrated artists of the 20th century. A luminary creative at the frontlines of modern art’s most significant movements, Matisse’s sought-after works are key highlights at major museums and coveted additions to the most esteemed private collections.

Dated 1897

Frame: 23 1/4" high x 26 7/8" wide
Canvas: 18 1/8" high x 21 3/4" wide

Provenance:Private Collector, France
By descent
Private Collector, New York
M.S. Rau
Vue de Belle-île by Henri Matisse
Maker: Matisse, Henri
Period: 1919-Present
Origin: France
Type: Paintings
Depth: 2.5 Inches
Width: 26.88 Inches
Height: 23.25 Inches
Style: Impressionism
Canvas Width: 21.75 Inches
Canvas Height: 18.125 Inches
Vue de Belle-île by Henri Matisse
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