Monday, 3 December 2012

Henri-Edmond Cross

At the Matisse museum in Le Cateau-Cambrésis (North of France), I saw in June this year an exhibition titled: “Henri-Edmond Cross and Neo-impressionnism, from Seurat to Matisse”.

Cross is the less known of the three artists who launched and defined Neo-impressionnism. We know works by Seurat and Signac, less so for Cross. One of the reasons, according to the curator of the exhibition, was that Cross chose to live in the South of France, far from Paris salons, exhibitions, galleries and collectors.

The exhibition presented 34 works that Cross painted from 1891 until he died in 1910 and some beautiful watercolours.
The term Neo-Impressionism was first penned by the art critic Félix Fénéon in 1886. Artists used dabs of pure colour and the principle of optical mixing of colours to recreate landscapes in their workshops. The main artists in this mouvement were Seurat, Signac, Cross, Van Rysselberghe, Maximilien Luce and Dubois-Pillet.
Of Neo-Impressionism, Cross wrote: “It was more for the neo a question of creating some harmonies of hues rather then harmonising hues of this landscape or that scene from nature.”
Purple is the darkest colours of the neo-impresionnist palette (with Ultramarine) and Cross was very fond of this colour.

La Ferme, matin, Oil on canvas, Musée des beaux-arts de Nancy (Source : Wikimedia)
In the painting La Ferme, matin, the marks have the shape of grains of rice. There is no visible texture as the paint has been applied in very thin layers. We can see the artist’s predilection for the colour purple.

La baie à Cavalière - Oil on canvas (Source: Wikimedia)

Cross sometimes resorted to painting lines. This was a departure from the pure Neo-impresionnist precepts, but it was the only way to convey the form and expression of goats (that he painted many times) or people in his paintings. The way he seems to have done it was to “draw” the form first with a dark colour and then fill it in with the marks of pure colour. A close examination of the canvas let you see the lines behind and between the coloured marks.

Les Iles d'Or (Source: Wikimedia)

The painting Les Iles d'Or (the golden Islands) is very simple yet very modern.
Cross created some beautiful watercolour paintings and liked the freedom that this medium offered:
“Since a few days, I rest from my canvasses by trying watercolour and sketching with this medium. It is fun. The absolute necessity of being fast, bold and even insolent, brings into work a kind of benevolent fever after months of languor spent on paintings whose first idea was unconsidered.” (Letter from Cross to Angrand – March 1900 – Archives Angrand)
Lavender - Watercolour (Source: Wikimedia)
Related article

No comments: