By January 1908 Albert Marquet was living on the fifth floor at 19 Quai Saint-Michel. He approached the scene in Paris as a totality, as he had elsewhere, with a preference for steep downward perspectives. Like his neighbour, Henri Matisse, he captured multiple views of Notre Dame, constantly changing the angle.
The muted colours of Notre-Dame, temps de neige, contrasting with the expanses of white, show Marquet adopting a more limited palette after his fauve period. The painter now abandoned the distortions and pure colours – yellows, blues and vermilions – favoured by his comrades André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck and concentrated instead on synthesis and a certain kind of harmony. In this case, the snow allows him to dispense with all depth and paint almost in black and white.
This urban view of the banks of the Seine is highly characteristic of the way in which Marquet constructed his canvases. A network of thick lines, like underscores, constitutes the armature of the landscape. Combined with these, broad brushstrokes and the occasional broad swathe of colour or unpainted canvas form essential elements of the composition. There are no superfluous details. A few swift touches animate the painting. The painter poetically captures the atmosphere of a Paris slowed down by bad weather. The barge frozen in a thick coat of snow echoes the dark mass of the cathedral. Only a handful of people, rendered by short black strokes, have ventured outside.
Marquet was a frequent traveller but returned to Paris regularly until 1931 to paint the Seine, the bridges and the Île de la Cité from the window of his apartment. He painted several canvases with this exact same composition, be it in snowy, such as here, sunny or rainy weather.
Marquet: vues de Paris et de l’Île-de-France, exh. cat. Paris, Musée Carnavalet, Paris-musées, 2004.
Albert Marquet: du fauvisme à l’impressionnisme, exh. cat. Troyes, Musée d’art moderne, Paris, Centre Pompidou, RMN, 2003.