Soothing nostalgia from France
The Fleming Collection Gallery is the venue to see Scottish painting in London. The collection originally formed by Flemings, the merchant bank can be found in Barclay Street in Mayfair and shows Scottish art from 1770 to the present day.
The most popular artists to be found there are the four Scottish colourists Peploe, Fergusson, Hunter and Cadell. These painters worked in France in the 1900s and exhibiting with the Fauves (Matisse, Vlaminck, Derain and co), their accessible and joyous use of colour is part of the reason for their continuing appeal.
In the spirit of the ‘auld alliance’ the Gallery in association with Chester Collections is showing what might be the French equivalent of these artists and the show is entitled French Naturalist Painters 1890-1950. This group consists of eight landscape painters all of whom were born just as Impressionism was first being introduced in France and when they trained as painters their work took on the stylistic influences of Impressionist, Fauvism and later, Art Deco. To the cognoscenti, their efforts might pale into insignificance next to the work of the Impressionist masters, but to those less concerned with status, these bread and butter post-Impressionists provide the enjoyment of a French summers day without the price tag of their predecessors.
Victor – Ferdinand Bourgeois (1870–1957) is represented by his ‘Nice. Le depart du bateau grec” a Fauvist inspired painting that shows the same painterly concerns as Scotish painter J.D. Ferguson, who was painting in nearby Cap d’Antibe at the same time. Colour predominates and it is a fitting response to the beauties of the renowned Cote d’Azure. This painting was also exhibited in the Salon d’Autome of 1907, at the height of Fauvist influence.
The show however is not one of comparisons with their Scottish compatriots but rather an attempt to raise, for a more general public, the profile of these French painters in their own right in a gallery that is sympathetic to landscape and figure painting of the period.
Gaston Balande (1880-1971) is another artist who adopts a Fauvist inspired techniques. His ‘Port de La Rochelle, effect de Nuit’ 1920 showing the concerns and influence of his better known contemporary and friend Albert Marquet. The electric light in this harbour scene contrasts well with orange glow of the setting sun. He is the best-known artist of the group and became famous for his mural paintings on the transatlantic liner the Normandie.
Andre – Leon Vivrel (1886- 1976) is the most Impressionist of the group and if you can’t afford a Sisley or Monet these days (and who can, except for merchant bankers) then this artist will provide the sunshine, brush work and subject matter that fits the bill. His ‘Passerelle en bois depuis le quai d’Orleans (L’ile Saint–Louis) painted in 1920 is a classic Impressionist painting of this temporary wooden bridge over the Seine and recreates the high point of Impressionism in the city of it’s birth. Other paintings such as ‘La pont de L’ile Sainte Louis’ are unashamed paintings of Spring time in Paris by the Seine with traffic noticeable by its absence.
Paul Deltombe (1878-1971) records the changing face of France with his view of a Mosque in a sun-drenched Parisian street and overall the paintings of this group of artists reflects their time and their technique and their training in a French naturalist tradition of plein-air paintings. At a time when there seems no end to blockbuster exhibitions of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist painters, it is refreshing to see these more modest but talented artists promoted instead. We can’t all be A listers in the world of art and there are plenty of pleasure inducing paintings out there to be viewed. However for those who can’t get enough of Renoir and Monet then around the corner at the Royal Academy is an exhibition from The Clark Museum in Massachusetts of their Impressionist collection. If the rainy weather is getting you down then a pick-me-up of French nostalgia and long lost summer days must surely be the tonic required.