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henri manguin

Post #635 • September 29, 2005, 12:50 PM • 47 Comments

As I said earlier, "Right under the Sun: Landscape in Provence, from Classicism to Modernism (1750-1920)" at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts had all the usual ringers who painted the landscape in the south of France: Cézanne, Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh. And although my admiration for Cézanne increases upon every review, I especially noticed some next-tier work, and I'm going to take a day or three to go through it. Entry one: Henri Manguin.

Marseilles, Window onto the Old Port, 1925
Oil on canvas, 81 x 68 cm
Image courtesy the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Manguin studied alongside Matisse in the studio of Gustave Moreau. Manguin's efforts towards the Fauvist project shows him to have too great a love for structure to do what Matisse did with color, but that structure glows with its own kind of virtue. Compositionally, this painting swings. The underpainting, something that we don't associate with Fauvism, pokes through with little assertions of Venetian red all over the painting. Manguin capitalizes on one of the early discoveries of Fauvism, that simplified forms could be made to take on a massive, heavier-than-life quality that works well with painting's ability to create illusionistic form.

Comment

1.

Jack

September 29, 2005, 1:02 PM

What's the date on this piece, Frnklin? It's not Fauvist.

2.

Matty

September 29, 2005, 1:34 PM

Did Matisse ever study with Gérôme, or do I just have him mixed up in my head with Moreau for some reason?

3.

Matty

September 29, 2005, 1:38 PM

and more on topic...

I like the painting, but the bracket thingy attached to the window frame in the upper left strikes me as a little awkward (a minor nit to pick).

4.

Franklin

September 29, 2005, 1:58 PM

1925. I meant to put that above; it's there now.

5.

oldpro

September 29, 2005, 2:16 PM

Matisse never studeied with Gerome as far as I know Matty. Here is a list of some of his better known students:

Eugene Alexis Girardet, Dagnan-Bouveret, Lecomte du Nouy, Thomas Eakins, Frank Boggs, Frederick Bridgman, Kenyon Cox, Julian Alden Weir, Dennis Miller Bunker, William DeLeftwich Dodge, Alexander Harrison, Robert Lee MacCameron, Siddons Mowbray, Harper Pennington, William Picknell, Julius Stewart, Abbott Thayer, Douglas Volk, Wyatt Eaton and Lawton Parker.

Good call on the moulding in the Manguin painitng. Probably your sculptor's eye talking to you.

6.

Franklin

September 29, 2005, 2:22 PM

The moulding is awkward, but block it out with your finger and look what happens to the composition. Not so good.

7.

Jack

September 29, 2005, 2:49 PM

The thingy's there for good reason. This was painted 20 years after the Fauvist phase proper, and the style is "late" for 1925. It's a kind of cross between Monet and Cezanne, and it looks like watercolor more than oil. Was the artist French or French-Canadian?

8.

George

September 29, 2005, 3:02 PM

Re: The thingie, see for yourself

9.

George

September 29, 2005, 3:37 PM

Among other things... the thingy could go or not.
The thingie has no shadow so it feels plopped on (Matty got that)
I think the problem is the left interior wall which is too light and the underside of the arch should lighten a tad near the top to be in accordance with the shadows on the pots/bowls on the table

10.

oldpro

September 29, 2005, 3:39 PM

Very good, George. I think I still like it without the thingy, or perhaps there should have been some other compositional adjustment made.

He was French Jack. Your comment about Cezanne & Monet applies especially to his earlier Fauvist work. This picture reminds me a lot of Marquet's work, which had a similar grayish cast. Marquet was a good friend of Manguin's and also a very good & neglected artist of the time.

11.

George

September 29, 2005, 3:46 PM

Like this

12.

Kathleen

September 29, 2005, 4:46 PM

There's a lot that's awkward in the composition. The thingy jumped out at me as well, and look how the leaves of the plant and the fruit are totally constrained by the edge of the painting.

13.

Denise

September 29, 2005, 5:38 PM

I am not particularly crazy about the composition myself. The visual relationship between the boat outside and the stuff on the shelf inside is really awkward to me. Also, the shape and feel and color of all the objects clustered at the bottom of the painting--the fruit, the plant, the boat--seem really dissonant in the context of the rest of the piece. And not in a good way. The whole thing is too bottom-heavy.

14.

Franklin

September 29, 2005, 6:01 PM

I can see those things, yet I keep looking down the wall, across the table, up the boat, back across the city, over and over again, with the center empty and beautiful and still...

15.

oldpro

September 29, 2005, 6:14 PM

It is a real nice painting. I would hang it in my house in a minute.

16.

ahab

September 29, 2005, 6:43 PM

I like the Manguin. I think it is a challenging picture, compositionally at least. Composition is one aspect that is decently apprehendable in digital reproduction. The challenge lies in its blank middle, where one sortof expects the picture to take place.

The thingie looks like it has wacky orientation, perspective-wise, but I think the picture is better with it in. Thanks for the option George. The problem I see when the thingie is out of the picture is that the whole scene seems to squeeze left with the strong slopes of the sill and the city-slope nearly pushing me off the canvas towards the sun. But it may not be the best solution possible.

Regarding the bottom heavy comment earlier, I disagree. My eye sweeps over the foreground still-life left to right then angling up over the ships and into the furthest distance, sliding more slowly back down the horizon contours, reentering the room at the left. The thingie operates to keep me from burning up on reentry - pauses me in the top left, though maybe awkwardly and too long. Like Franklin, I enjoy the push and pull that the painting exerts on me.

Thanks for the picture, Franklin. And thanks for the excellent dog-swearing everyone. I enjoy it all immensely.

17.

Jack

September 29, 2005, 9:06 PM

The thingy counterbalances the boat, just as the vase at the left counterbalances the church steeple. Also, removing the thingy somehow sterilizes the picture, or makes it blander. It's a trifle awkward, perhaps, but it adds spice or character of sorts, and it makes the painting a little messier and a bit more complex, like life.

18.

George

September 29, 2005, 9:47 PM

The composition based on 1/3 and 1/2 division.

19.

oldpro

September 29, 2005, 10:24 PM

this is an odd puzzle, because my take on something like this is usually immediate and permanent. I keep looking at George's original with & without version and both seem lacking; the with seems to anchor something and the without seems smoother and more inviting. On the other hand the with seems too deliberate and pat and the without seems a bit soft and vacuous.

When I run across this kind of quandry in my own painting I usually head back to the proverbial drawing board. I have always felt that the difference between a great painter and a good painter is that the great one doesn't settle.

20.

Matty

September 29, 2005, 10:35 PM

Well, I don't know exactly how long I've been walkin' around with the false knowledge of Matisse being a student of Gérôme, but I'm a little sad to have my ignorance dispelled... it made so much sense to me, and I like Gérôme much better than Moreau.

Now, you'll have to excuse me for a moment while I bask in the warmth of agreement from not just oldpro (for once), but also Franklin, George (!), Kathleen (!!), Ahab, and Jack... Ah, the sweet smell of consensus. I'm including Franklin and Jack in this accord, since I agree that it IS there for a reason... something DOES need to be there... just maybe not exactly that.

George, vive la photoshop! Both the alteration and the composition overlay serve as great illustrations to the discussion... please don't hesitate to make more 'visual comments' like that in the future. Nice going.

I don't agree with Kathleen or Denise's take on the "problems" at the bottom of the piece... c'est la vie, to each their own.

Gosh, this Artblog might not be such an 'angry hornet's nest' after all.

21.

Franklin

September 29, 2005, 10:48 PM

In my experience, the with/without problem indicates that something needs to be there, about that size, but not that particular thing.

I second Matty's praise of George's visual analysis. It's amazing how the shoreline sits down on the 2/3 horizontal so neatly, and that 1/3 - 2/3 rhombus just zips right through so many important points. I think that we're biologically constructed to detect such proportions in the same way that we can detect octaves, and that artists tend to generate these proportions unselfconsciously. (I realize that sometimes these choices are quite deliberate, but they often don't work when applied in a formulaic manner.)

22.

that guy

September 29, 2005, 11:24 PM

nice picture. I'm not convinced we've found a solution to the "thingie" that should either be there or not there. Something tells me we are asking the wrong question. (With apologies to George the photoshop guru.) My question is why is this Manguin drawing on Cezanne, early Monet, Matisse and not telling us anything about Manguin. Its so close to being there, that it falls to pieces in the effort. In the end it remains a nice picture.

23.

George

September 29, 2005, 11:35 PM

I wouldn't be surprised if Manguin had marked the basic divisions out on the bare canvas with chalk. Some of the directional alignments are too close to be accidental. The canvas itself is 81x68 which is about a 6 to 5 ratio so a 1/3 division on the vertical makes sense.
I just looked for interger ratio divisions and (in my opinion) the waterline was not an accident or an eyeball placement but measured and drawn out first.

The old canvas sizes were numbered 81x100 is #40 for example. Yesterday, I was looking for a chart with the various standard sizes but couldn't find one via google. I was curious about the width-height ratios commonly used. After a quick check of some paintings from the period I found 5/4, 3/2, 4/3, the fibonacci relationships 1.38/1 and 1.62/1 were common.

24.

George

September 29, 2005, 11:40 PM

That guy, I recant my comments in #9 and 11. I was on my way to the Jewish museum and in a hurry when I wrote that. I don't really know what I think of the points I mentioned, the thingy or wall color and I would have to see the painting to say.
I do think the compositional divisions are in least in part correct

25.

oldpro

September 29, 2005, 11:51 PM

Interesting info, George. I have a cache of canvas sizes Picasso asked Kahnweiler to get for him somewhere & i will try to find it. I think it was common then to buy prepared canvases.

Matty maybe the reason everything is going more smoothly is because we are talking about actual facts and observations about actual art.

26.

George

September 29, 2005, 11:54 PM

Re: The thingy. It is possible that this is a piece of architectural ornament which was actually there. It's location at the start of the arch suggests that it might be a decorative element on the face of the building (facing the bay) and with a miter corner, wrapped inside the opening. There are some other oddities here. Is this a porch or a window? If it's a window, the frame and mullions are intentionally not included. If it is a porch then it could have been more or less as it appears.

27.

George

September 29, 2005, 11:56 PM

Op re #25. I was hoping someone would say that. If you can find it I would be really curious to see it.

28.

that guy

September 29, 2005, 11:59 PM

good point oldpro, this blog is set up to take it a piece at a time. Critique for the world.

29.

George

September 30, 2005, 12:02 AM

re#21 Franklin, also note the slope of the brown line at the sill is drawn through a pair of the diagonal intersections with its width determined by a second set of intersections. It's not fanatically exact but chance? eyeball? I doubt it.

30.

Franklin

September 30, 2005, 6:58 AM

eyeball? I doubt it.

The slope is also a mirror-image of the angle describing the building-tops of the city, if you ignore that one tower poking through it. That's not so hard to eyeball.

31.

oldpro

September 30, 2005, 8:35 AM

George - I will look for that but it will be buried in a mass of material with things I extracted from student papers from a Cubism seminar I used to teach and may be hard to locate.

As I recall Picasso was in one of his summer places - Sorgue, Ceret, Cadaques, Avignon, one of those - and sent a list to Kahnweiler for canvases which went by number, eg #24 would be one size and #25 another size. Apparently they were sold that way.

32.

Gravity

September 30, 2005, 8:47 AM

Marseilles: Window on to the old port. Isn't very good,

it's average at best.

33.

Franklin

September 30, 2005, 8:56 AM

Thanks for sharing, Gravity. I wonder what drive-by comment shooters did before blogging? They must have had to keep their tiny thoughts to themselves.

34.

George

September 30, 2005, 9:15 AM

Oldpro, re #31. Thanks for the thought.
If anone else has list of numbered canvas sizes, or a link to one, I'm still curious.

35.

Franklin

September 30, 2005, 9:26 AM

From Ralph Mayer, p. 246 in my ancient copy:

"In France the dimensions of canvases and frames are standardized into fifty-seven numbered sizes, nineteen each of three shapes called figure, paysage, and marine. This system is advantageous in that a large selection of both canvases and fames in conventionally pleasing shapes constitute stock items that can be ordered by number. A common notion is that the system has been arranged according to some mathematical law of proportion or symmetry, but more probably it was arranged by dealers and artists to afford the greatest possible number of choices with a minimum of stock."

I thought he had a chart, but alas, no.

36.

oldpro

September 30, 2005, 9:39 AM

Franklin I think you may have hit on a formula. I suspect that there are very few drive-by types who are fanatic Manguin fans. Follow this up with Marquet and others of that ilk and it should be smooth sailing.

Of course I would definitely miss the verbal battles..

BTW I ran the painting through auto levels and it brightened up considerably. (There must be someone out there who will take exception to that). I wouldn't be surprised if it didn't bring the picture closer to its original colors.

37.

Franklin

September 30, 2005, 9:50 AM

Even I jumped up the contrast a little bit before posting it. I don't think the image is all that off, but the human eye is much more sensitive than the camera when it comes to detecting variations of tone.

39.

mek

September 30, 2005, 10:15 AM

Quite a lovely painting. I have enjoyed skimming the comments / analysis (not for lack of interest but for lack of time). Interesting how the foreground is more cezanne-like than the back.

I absolutely love happening upon a piece that i had never noticed before and getting lost within. The quiet study & experiential aspect is quite transforming and not easy for me to articulate.

Being away from the Met is like a part of my soul is missing. I enjoy hearing about all the places George trots off to as i used to frequent the same museums and galleries, and more.

Off I go to the Young At Art Children's Museum in Davie, with my 2 yr old. I have a broader focus now.

nice, neutral blog topic. :-)

40.

oldpro

September 30, 2005, 11:06 AM

Thanks for the Fauves, George. Monet is not a Fauve, but who cares.

I think "broader focus" is an almost-oxymoron, MEK. (Sorry; I am teaching my writing class this semester and this kind of thing is automatic).

41.

ahab

September 30, 2005, 11:21 AM

One good painting does not a good painter make.

My own little one-liner describing the disappointment of seeing other Manguin work online, once again courtesy George's Googling Goodness. "Marseilles,WotOP" seems to be anomalous. Of course, I have only the internet at hand as a research resource and don't presume to think that good representation online is a sure indicator of quality. This painting is no less enjoyable though.

The window ledge thingie seems like the most likely Manguin-ism in this piece. Many of his paintings online have a stylistically similar awkwardness all throughout. And each seems to be aping some other more recognizable artist.

Franklin, do you recall whether any other Manguin paintings were included in the "Right under the Sun..." exhibit?

42.

oldpro

September 30, 2005, 11:35 AM

i knew when i wrote that either you or matty would point it out. ha! maybe my new moniker will be oxi moron.

off to http://www.youngatartmuseum.org/

43.

Franklin

September 30, 2005, 11:45 AM

I presume that was not from Oldpro, but to him from Mek.

Or maybe not...

44.

1

September 30, 2005, 11:47 AM

one of the reasons that the manguin painting does not completely
succeed is that it looks like pieces of a puzzle put
together that were not made on the same day. some nice different areas
of the painting taken independently, but the whole
piece does not hold together. chopped up with
disparate parts. the most obvious example of this is
looking at the darker and lighter parts of the
picture. absolutely no continuity. the boat looks like
one of those kid stickers just planted on top of the
water. also clashing styles of painting. there are
many paintings with this same compostion (interior and
exterior) that work wonderfully and seamless. matisse
jumps out. so that is not the problem. the guy could
just not get the painting to come together. thats a
start.

45.

Franklin

September 30, 2005, 11:51 AM

I think that was the only Manguin, and the catalogue would seem to confirm it. There were some Marquets executed in a similar manner, though.

46.

oldpro

September 30, 2005, 12:48 PM

Yes, that must have been from MEK to me. Just a typo, I'm sure.

47.

oxi moron

September 30, 2005, 5:06 PM

yes that was from me to oldpro. too much multi tasking going on... :-)

mek

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