Albert Marquet’s art betrays a lifelong, near-obsessive fascination with water. He took little interest in sites of outstanding beauty or remarkable views. The scenes he preferred showed water as a landscape in its own right and a fundamental feature of our world: he painted the calm waters of ports and bays and slow, winding rivers.
Marquet spent the summer of 1925 travelling in Norway with his wife Marcelle. The couple first visited Oslo, then rented a house in Hesnès, surrounded by gardens and offering a view of the islet-strewn sea and a rocky shoreline on which red-painted wooden houses stood. “We lived without discretion. Our life consisted of fishing, swimming, walks, and regular work”, his wife was later to recall. Marquet went on frequent excursions locally, including to Grimstad, where he painted this work.
Marquet has perfectly captured the intense, trenchant light of Scandinavia and the specifics of the site – a small fishing port lying at the mouth of a fjord. The work, characterised by extreme minimalism, makes use of several of the artist’s favourite techniques – a high-angle view for the foreground that becomes more horizontal in the middle ground, a high horizon line blocked by mountains, shapes outlined in black, and a rudimentary depiction of movement in the water.
The painting reveals that Marquet may have moved on from Fauvism but he was still eager to use colour to great effect. The deliberately flat, pale expanse of water, given a sense of dynamic space with nothing more than simple lines, forms a striking contrast with the orange-red hues of the buildings and the deep green of the trees, their dense branches foregrounded by the bright light of a gloriously sunny day.
Albert Marquet: peintre du temps suspendu, exh. cat. Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris Musées, 2016.
Marquet, exh. cat. Lodève, Musée de Lodève, Milan, Electa, 1998.
Marcelle Marquet, Albert Marquet, Paris, Hazan, 1955.