Celebrated French artist Henri Lebasque is renowned for his intimate nudes, and this oil on canvas is a particularly lovely example of his mastery over the subject. Entitled Marinette Endormie, the scene is reminiscent of the sensuous odalisques favored by Lebasque’s contemporary, Henri Matisse, in both its subject and its colorful palette. Lebasque’s model lounges upon a chaise of richly patterned floral fabrics rendered in cool blue and green hues, while his signature airy brushwork lends a dream-like softness to the overall atmosphere. Like Matisse, Lebasque’s nudes reveal the artist’s experimentation with composition and color, which placed him at the center of the avant-garde Post-Impressionist movement of the early 20th century.
Painted late in his career, Nu Allongé sur le Canapé exhibits the fully developed style of this artistic great. It was composed nearly a decade after Lebasque permanently relocated to the French Riviera in order to take advantage of the region’s unparalleled light. Inspired by the beauty that surrounded him, Lebasque’s brightened canvases earned him the moniker “painter of joy and light.” These qualities are on full display in Marinette Endormie, with both its airy color scheme, as well as Lebasque’s bold, energetic brushstrokes. The contrasts of deep mauve and orange tones with soft greens and blues recall the palette favored by his Fauvist contemporaries, Matisse and Manguin.
Lebasque was born in 1865 in Maine-et-Loire and moved to Paris in 1885, where he often visited the atelier of Léon Bonnat. He studied painting at the École des Beaux Arts and fell under the influence of his fellow students Pierre Bonnard and Edouard Vuillard. Most notably, he was a founding member of the Salon d’Automne in 1903 along with Henri Matisse, the annual exhibition that in 1905 featured the controversial paintings of Matisse, Derain, Vlaminck, Manguin, Vuillard and Rouault. The critic Louis Vauxcelles dubbed the group “Les Fauves,” dubbing them wild beasts due to their use of bright colors and wild, untamed lines. Lebasque, however, enjoyed greater popularity and commercial success during his lifetime than the other artists associated with Fauvism, largely due to what critics considered a sophisticated and subtle fluidity in his work.
In 1924, Lebasque moved to Cannes with both Bonnard and Matisse as his neighbors. It was then that both Matisse and Lebasque shifted their emphasis to nudes, creating exquisite paintings of voluptuous odalisques in highly decorative settings. Lebasque’s paintings from this time contain all of the intimacy of his earlier domestic scenes, though his nudes possess a sense of fertility and warmth.
This work is pictured in Henri Lebasque Catalogue Raisonné, Tome 1, 2008, by D. Bazetoux, no. 1071.