MARQUET Albert
( 1875-1947) French painter and draughtsman; born in Bordeaux; died in Paris. Arriving in Paris as a young man, Marquet, like his friend Matisse, was, from 1897 on, a pupil of Gustave Moreau. His beginnings were particularly difficult. To make a living he worked with Matisse on the Modern Style decoration of the Universal Exhibition of 1900. With Matisse he became one of the Fauves and for a time his boldness of colour almost matched that of his friend. A year later he painted landscapes and nudes that already showed his originality and independence. At the Salon des Indépendants in 1903, the Salon d'Automne and the Berthe Weil Gallery his canvases hung next to those of Matisse. For this reason he has been considered as one of the original Fauves. But he was really not allied to any group, although he was one of the young rebels who, at the turn of the century, made the last assault on the Impressionist stronghold.
His alleged Fauvism was no more than the effect of an attack of fever transmitted by a band of boisterous artists, for never, even when he painted the Sergeant of the Colonial Troops ( 1907), the Fair at Haure ( 1905) or Sainte-Adresse ( 1906), did Marquet regard colour as an end in itself or as a means of relieving emotions. Between 1909 and 1910 he worked occasionally at the Académie Ranson, where he met Jourdain and Manguin. In 1912. he accompanied Matisse on his trip to Morocco. The fever having abated, and each Fauve retired to his cage, Marquet followed his own inclinations. He who had painted portraits and nudes of such firm design and vigorous touch devoted himself entirely to landscape: the Seine, its quays and tugboats; the harbours of Fécamp, Honfleur, Algiers and Naples, of Hamburg and Stockholm; repeating untiringly the same themes and the same subjects: the Pont Neuf in various seasons, the Pont Neuf at dawn, at midday, at night, always the same Pont Neuf, but never the same picture. He did not make the slightest attempt to humour his public; the man who had refused the Legion of Honour, membership in the Institut de France and every other official recognition, who lived in simple, dignified solitude, working for his own pleasure, unconcerned with critics, art dealers and collectors, was above making any concession. A master draughtsman, Marquet reduced drawing to quick notations, concentrated it to the extreme and subordinated it to plain and limpid colour, seemingly monotonous, but varied in gradations. A picture by Marquet asserts itself by its harmony, its balance, its solidity and its stability, but his nothing that is heavy or strident. Masses, compact forms, a dense atmosphere, an almost solid light: all this appears nevertheless clear, imponderable, alert, so nervous is the execution, so quick the decision, so direct the painter's vision. A few horizontals, colour applied in thin layers, skilful composition, a refreshing spontaneity, a sure craftsmanship, along with taste, elegance, will and a quick intelligence -- all these things are sufficient explanation for this landscapist's renown. Marquet gave the landscape and the seascape that intelligibility, simplicity and poise which the Impressionist works of a Monet or a Pissarro so lacked. It is gratifying, moreover, that he did not fall into the trap of facile picturesqueness and insipid sentimentality. Marquet's judgment was, in fact, as sure as his eye. One will remember his contempt for lyrical effusions, the concision of his style, and the sobriety of his means, although some will less readily accept another aspect of his classicism, a sometimes excessively bridled imagination and a temperament that modesty often restrained to the extreme. Marquet, in fact, had no other ambition than to set forth a faithful image of Nature. It was before Nature and in the midst of it that he felt happy. He experienced an ever-renewed pleasure in reproducing it. In this way he forgot man, who eventually disappeared from his work. At the beginning he showed promise of becoming a great portraitist and a great figure painter. One is inclined today to see in him only a specialist of harbours, beaches and bridges. Rather indifferent to humanity, whom he regarded without indulgence, he devoted all available emotion to Nature. At most he allowed himself to reduce it on his canvas to a simplified image. No daring transpositions, no marked distortions, but always the natural light, local tone, free-and-easy perspective characterize his landscapes; and it was always to his astonishing dexterity that he resorted rather than to the daring of speculation and instinct. A realistic painter, Marquet can no longer be regarded as a Fauve, even a repentant one. His credo was that of Poussin, of Corot, of Courbet. He was a master of line. His hasty pencil sketches, his drawings, which recall the strength of suggestion of the Japanese compel admiration. 'He is our Hokusai', Matisse said of him. It is perhaps into this minor part of his work that Marquet put the best of himself, his rigour, his fine sensitivity and the sharpness of his mind. His work is particularly well represented in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux.
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