jueves, 28 de julio de 2016


Christa Zaat

Henry Herbert La Thangue (English painter) 1859 - 1929
Ligurian Roses, s.d.
oil on canvas
105.5 x 96.5 cm. (41½ x 38 in.)
signed l.l.: H. H. LA THANGUE
inscribed and signed on the central stretcherbar: "Ligurian Roses"/ H.H. La Thangue
private collection

Catalogue Note
'It would be difficult to find a more conscientious, consistent, or industrious painter... The pioneer in this country of what is commonly called naturalism in Art - the School of Painting which had Bastien-Lepage for its apostle in France.' (J. S. Little, 'Henry Herbert la Thangue ARA', The Magazine of Art, 1904, p. 1)
Having studied at the South Kensington Schools, the Lambeth School of Art and the Royal Academy Schools, La Thangue's artistic training had already been extensive before he enrolled at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux Arts in 1880 to complete his training, studying under the highly respected Jean Leon Gérôme. The move to Paris was a common trend amongst la Thangue's British contemporaries eager to absorb the developments on the Continent. It was the beginning of the more 'cosmopolitan' characteristic of British art from the 1880s, and one denounced by the older generation fearing for the contamination of Britian's artistic identity. Yet for the emerging generation, it was an exciting period of opportunity and development, and la Thangue's experience of the open-air naturalism in the Salon, practised by Bastien-Lepage, Leon Lehermitte and Dagnan Bouveret, was to have a profound impact.

Travelling the Brittany coast and the Rhône valley in the early eighties, la Thangue developed his distinct manner of broad square brushstrokes and a bright palette, depicting the rural landscape and its inhabitants. He was particularly interested in capturing the rural traditions that were being rapidly consigned to history as mechanisation and mass farming began to destroy the picturesque nature of the countryside. On his return to England, la Thangue continued to explore these themes in Norfolk and Sussex. However, it was not until he travelled to the Mediterranean in the early 1900s, firstly in Provence and later at Liguria that la Thangue found the simple peasant life style he had wanted to paint throughout his career. Located on the coast of north-western Italy, close to the French border, la Thangue was inspired by the rural setting, local inhabitants and traditions of Liguria, equivalents which were fast disappearing in England. Responding to the fertile landscape and warm southern light, la Thangue made a delightful series of paintings rich in subject and colour.

The image of women and girls drinking from springs and wells was one he painted on several occasions, such as A Provencal Fountain (Manchester City Art Gallery) and Goats at a Fountain (Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool). The very same well and near identical viewpoint of Ligurian Roses appears in Winter in Liguria (sold Christie's, 26 November 2003, lot 37), but in the present work the girl is seen, animal-esque, quenching her thirst directly from the well, ripples of water gently disturbing the surface. It's a most natural act, the girl seemingly unaware of the artist's keenly observant eye. With expressive, confident brush marks, particularly in the dappled sweeps of sunlight breaking through the trees, la Thangue masterfully evokes the atmosphere of the scene.

In his Ligurian works, la Thangue captures an idyll which he himself realised was a transitory moment, writing in 1929 a few months before his death: 'all of these regions have been spoilt by the war and still more perhaps by peace.' His Ligurian canvases are all the more seductive as a result and it is this body of work, displaying la Thangue's evocative sensations of nature through his very personal idiom, which is considered his lasting achievement.

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