1905 marked the beginning of what Albert Marquet’s wife Marcelle referred to as his ‘travelling period’. The artist, whose works generate a sense of quiet calm, rarely settled in the same place for longer than three months. He was on a quest not for interesting local subjects, but for new atmospheres and new forms of light. He travelled across France from north to south and across Europe from the North Sea to the Mediterranean. Like for many other landscape painters, Italy proved a particularly compelling subject.
Marquet spent June and July 1908 on his first visit to Naples, in the company of the painter Henri Manguin. He returned in the summer of 1909 with the writer Eugène Montfort, and then again in 1911. He was attracted by Vesuvius dominating the bay, like many other artists before him, from Francesco Guardi to J.M.W. Turner and Camille Corot. He brought a series of canvases back with him from each trip. He returned to the theme of anglers several times, without changing the composition. Here he frames the motif tightly, giving fresh impetus to the guiding lines and the vanishing point, bringing the viewer into the scene where his other works in similar vein keep their distance.
The most striking aspect of Marquet’s oeuvre is their timelessness of place, an impression created by the lack of details and his art of paring down landscape. The backlit scene hardens and radicalises the shapes, creating what might almost be dark cut-outs in the canvas. The water also becomes a physical presence, reflecting the solid black shapes, with here accentuated colours and there transparency that becomes weightier as it deepens. The mist-shrouded distance creates the opposite effect, as the slopes of Vesuvius merge into muffled silence. The soft lavendar volcano no longer dominates the landscape, now forming a subtler presence.
Albert Marquet: peintre du temps suspendu, exh. cat. Paris, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris Musées, 2016.
Albert Marquet, exh. cat. Paris, Musée national de la Marine, Paris, Thalia Éditions, 2008.