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LOT :77
Roderic O'Conor (1860-1940) Sur la Cote, Finistere (1898) Oil on canvas, 72.4 x 92.1cm (28.5 x 36.25'') Signed and dated 1898 Provenance :Roland, Browse & Delbanco, London, 1961;Browse & Darby, London, 1978;Celtic Court and Godolphin Galleries, Dublin, 1978 Literature:Wladyslawa Jaworska, Gauguin and the Pont-Aven School, London 1972, page 223 (reproduced);Jonathan Benington, Roderic O'Conor, a Biography with a Catalogue of his Work, Irish Academic Press, Dublin 1992, page 196, no. 56, reproduced plate 24 Exhibited: Paris, Salon des Ind?pendants, 1903, no. 1877;London, Roland, Browse & Delbanco, Roderic O'Conor, no. 3London, Roland, Browse & Delbanco, Roderic O'Conor / Norman Adams, April-May 1964, no. 6; London, Camden Arts Centre, and tour, Decade 1890-1900, 1967, no. 51 (reproduced);London, Roland, Browse & Delbanco, Roderic O'Conor, a selection of his best work, no. 27;London, Browse & Darby, British Paintings, 1978, no. 19;Dublin, Godolphin Gallery, Roderic O'Conor, a selection of his best works in Ireland, 1978, no. 3 (reproduced);Pont-Aven, Mus?e de Pont-Aven, Roderic O'Conor 1860-1940 (catalogue by Roy Johnston), 1984, no. 24 (reproduced);London, Barbican Art Gallery, and tour to Ulster Museum Belfast, National Gallery, Dublin and Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, Roderic O'Conor 1860-1940, 1985, no. 33 (reproduced);London, Browse & Darby, Roderic O'Conor 1860 - 1940, (catalogue by Jonathan Benington), 1994, no. 10 (reproduced) Sur la C?te (Finist?re) is imbued with the same passion for the untamed forces of nature as the other works in the extended series of seascapes that O'Conor painted in the closing years of the nineteenth century. The fiery colours and painterly approach seen here are dominant characteristics of the series, although this picture uniquely combines a surface that has been densely worked using undiluted pigment with a composition in which the rocky foreshore is the most prominent feature. The painting was clearly conceived as an ambitious and daring work that would stand out from its neighbours when it was exhibited. Finist?re (or 'End of the Earth') spans the western tip of the province of Brittany, from Roscoff in the north to Quimper and Pont-Aven in the south. It is where the Breton language has clung on most tenaciously. The further west one goes in Finist?re, the wilder the coast becomes. Piles of enormous blocks of pink granite sometimes rise as much as 20 metres, as at Ploumanach and Tr?gastel. The stretch of coastline with which O'Conor was most familiar was that at Le Pouldu, the coastal outpost of the Pont-Aven School of painters, which he first visited in 1892. He spent the entirety of the following season in the village, working alongside his friend, the artist Armand Seguin on a series of etchings inspired by the indented coast, with its estuaries, cliffs, wind-blown trees and sand-dunes. The year 1894 saw O'Conor returning to Pont-Aven. The industrious market town provided the setting for his legendary meeting with Gauguin, who had recently returned from his first visit to the South Seas. The friendship served to confirm O'Conor's revolutionary tendencies, but their time together was all too brief because Gauguin was soon to commence preparations for his final departure from France in 1895. The years that followed were difficult ones for O'Conor. He retired to the remote land-locked Breton village of Rochefort-en-terre, where he struggled to maintain the avant garde momentum of his earlier work. All this was to change, however, in 1898. In August of that year he returned to Le Pouldu, where he renewed his friendship with the Symbolist painter Charles Filiger. In such familiar surroundings any thought of embarking on landscapes or figure subjects was quickly dismissed in favour of seascapes. O'Conor seems to have consciously set out to produce a series of such pictures, completing at least thirty over a period of not more than two years. As part of his preparation for the series he toured the region's more remote stretches of wild, rocky coastline. In 1899 he spent several months next to a lighthouse at St. Gu?nol? in the far west of Brittany, before moving on in July to the island of Belle Ile. It would appear, however, that his peregrinations did not take him to the Pink Granite Coast near Ploumanach in the north. O'Conor was no doubt conscious of the fact that Monet had visited Belle-Ile in the autumn of 1886, resulting in a series of pictures documenting the dramatic scenery and fierce storms. The Australian painter John Peter Russell made his home on Belle-Ile and was acquainted with O'Conor, as was fellow Pont-Aven School painter Maxime Maufra, whose seascapes exhibited a penchant for heavy seas breaking against towering cliffs. But the work produced by Monet, Russell and Maufra was essentially Impressionist in style, allowing O'Conor the opportunity to interpret the material in a less representational way. His seascapes of the late 1890s broke new ground by relying on broad expanses of pure colour, contrasting the reds, pinks and oranges in the rocks with their complimentary hues, the greens and blues of the sea. O'Conor's inspiration was surely Gauguin, whose use of exotic colours and a flattened pictorial space had been developed during his 1888 visit to Brittany, culminating in works like The Beach at Le Pouldu of 1889, with its bright orange sand and emerald green sea. The extraordinary innovation and imagination that were the hallmarks of such paintings became ingrained in O'Conor's psyche, providing him with a potent and enduring example of artistic crusading. When the renowned English art cirtic Clive Bell met the Irishman in 1904, he was certain that ''The great event in O'Conor's life had been....his friendship - a close friendship as far as I could make out - with Gauguin....[his] strength of character and convincing style of talk made a deep impression on the young, or youngish, Irishman''. O'Conor owned no less than three oil paintings, two montotypes, a wood carving and numerous prints by the French master, continuing to add to the collection after they went their separate ways in 1895. Any one of the three Tahitian canvases he owned could have fuelled the creative leap of faith that he took when he embarked on his Breton seascape series. One need only compare the zones of luscious purple, pink, red and dark blue in the foreground of I Raro Te Oviri (Under the Pandanus Trees) with the interlocking wedges of pink, orange and red in Sur la C?te (Finist?re) in order to realise the extent of O'Conor's homage. He has applied what is effectively a South Seas palette to his renditions of the exposed coastline of northern France. The modernity of Sur la C?te (Finist?re) stems from its daring use of abstracted colours. O'Conor uses unnaturally bright pigments to express form, thereby liberating them from their representational function. He has learnt from Gauguin the importance of respecting the two-dimensional integrity of the canvas. Far from conveying recession and volume, the artist must organise his shapes and colours into an harmonious, intellectually satisfying configuration. By putting such ideas into practice, O'Conor demonstrated not only that he was in the vanguard of the most progressive contemporary European painting, but also that he was ahead of his time. It would take another six years, and the advent of a new century, before the Fauves started treating colour with a similar degree of expressive freedom. Feeling perhaps that the world was not yet ready for the chromatic fireworks of his Breton seascapes, O'Conor did not exhibit any of them until 1903. Even repeated entreaties from his friend, the artist Armand Seguin, could not induce him to reveal his hand any sooner. Seguin made one last appeal in March 1903: ''To return to my first thought and to explain myself better: one of your seascapes, you know from the series I admire, will not do your work justice, but the collecting together of these pictures would demonstrate your research, your burst of energy, declaring your intentions and the new beauty of your art.'' O'Conor first exhibited Sur la C?te (Finist?re) at the Salon des Ind?pendants of 1903, alongside another seascape of identical scale and ambition, La vague (collection of York City Art Gallery). The pairing of the two pictures, one dominated by a seemingly impenetrable bastion of rocks and the other by the relentless sea, would appear to have been quite deliberate. The absence of any human presence in these works suggests that here, at these extremities of western Europe, O'Conor found his personal Samoa. Jonathan Benington
Estimate EUR : €500,000.00 - €600,000.00
Auction Date : 05-12-2006

Description

Roderic O'Conor (1860-1940) Sur la Cote, Finistere (1898) Oil on canvas, 72.4 x 92.1cm (28.5 x 36.25'') Signed and dated 1898 Provenance :Roland, Browse & Delbanco, London, 1961;Browse & Darby, London, 1978;Celtic Court and Godolphin Galleries, Dublin, 1978 Literature:Wladyslawa Jaworska, Gauguin and the Pont-Aven School, London 1972, page 223 (reproduced);Jonathan Benington, Roderic O'Conor, a Biography with a Catalogue of his Work, Irish Academic Press, Dublin 1992, page 196, no. 56, reproduced plate 24 Exhibited: Paris, Salon des Ind?pendants, 1903, no. 1877;London, Roland, Browse & Delbanco, Roderic O'Conor, no. 3London, Roland, Browse & Delbanco, Roderic O'Conor / Norman Adams, April-May 1964, no. 6; London, Camden Arts Centre, and tour, Decade 1890-1900, 1967, no. 51 (reproduced);London, Roland, Browse & Delbanco, Roderic O'Conor, a selection of his best work, no. 27;London, Browse & Darby, British Paintings, 1978, no. 19;Dublin, Godolphin Gallery, Roderic O'Conor, a selection of his best works in Ireland, 1978, no. 3 (reproduced);Pont-Aven, Mus?e de Pont-Aven, Roderic O'Conor 1860-1940 (catalogue by Roy Johnston), 1984, no. 24 (reproduced);London, Barbican Art Gallery, and tour to Ulster Museum Belfast, National Gallery, Dublin and Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, Roderic O'Conor 1860-1940, 1985, no. 33 (reproduced);London, Browse & Darby, Roderic O'Conor 1860 - 1940, (catalogue by Jonathan Benington), 1994, no. 10 (reproduced) Sur la C?te (Finist?re) is imbued with the same passion for the untamed forces of nature as the other works in the extended series of seascapes that O'Conor painted in the closing years of the nineteenth century. The fiery colours and painterly approach seen here are dominant characteristics of the series, although this picture uniquely combines a surface that has been densely worked using undiluted pigment with a composition in which the rocky foreshore is the most prominent feature. The painting was clearly conceived as an ambitious and daring work that would stand out from its neighbours when it was exhibited. Finist?re (or 'End of the Earth') spans the western tip of the province of Brittany, from Roscoff in the north to Quimper and Pont-Aven in the south. It is where the Breton language has clung on most tenaciously. The further west one goes in Finist?re, the wilder the coast becomes. Piles of enormous blocks of pink granite sometimes rise as much as 20 metres, as at Ploumanach and Tr?gastel. The stretch of coastline with which O'Conor was most familiar was that at Le Pouldu, the coastal outpost of the Pont-Aven School of painters, which he first visited in 1892. He spent the entirety of the following season in the village, working alongside his friend, the artist Armand Seguin on a series of etchings inspired by the indented coast, with its estuaries, cliffs, wind-blown trees and sand-dunes. The year 1894 saw O'Conor returning to Pont-Aven. The industrious market town provided the setting for his legendary meeting with Gauguin, who had recently returned from his first visit to the South Seas. The friendship served to confirm O'Conor's revolutionary tendencies, but their time together was all too brief because Gauguin was soon to commence preparations for his final departure from France in 1895. The years that followed were difficult ones for O'Conor. He retired to the remote land-locked Breton village of Rochefort-en-terre, where he struggled to maintain the avant garde momentum of his earlier work. All this was to change, however, in 1898. In August of that year he returned to Le Pouldu, where he renewed his friendship with the Symbolist painter Charles Filiger. In such familiar surroundings any thought of embarking on landscapes or figure subjects was quickly dismissed in favour of seascapes. O'Conor seems to have consciously set out to produce a series of such pictures, completing at least thirty over a period of not more than two years. As part of his preparation for the series he toured the region's more remote stretches of wild, rocky coastline. In 1899 he spent several months next to a lighthouse at St. Gu?nol? in the far west of Brittany, before moving on in July to the island of Belle Ile. It would appear, however, that his peregrinations did not take him to the Pink Granite Coast near Ploumanach in the north. O'Conor was no doubt conscious of the fact that Monet had visited Belle-Ile in the autumn of 1886, resulting in a series of pictures documenting the dramatic scenery and fierce storms. The Australian painter John Peter Russell made his home on Belle-Ile and was acquainted with O'Conor, as was fellow Pont-Aven School painter Maxime Maufra, whose seascapes exhibited a penchant for heavy seas breaking against towering cliffs. But the work produced by Monet, Russell and Maufra was essentially Impressionist in style, allowing O'Conor the opportunity to interpret the material in a less representational way. His seascapes of the late 1890s broke new ground by relying on broad expanses of pure colour, contrasting the reds, pinks and oranges in the rocks with their complimentary hues, the greens and blues of the sea. O'Conor's inspiration was surely Gauguin, whose use of exotic colours and a flattened pictorial space had been developed during his 1888 visit to Brittany, culminating in works like The Beach at Le Pouldu of 1889, with its bright orange sand and emerald green sea. The extraordinary innovation and imagination that were the hallmarks of such paintings became ingrained in O'Conor's psyche, providing him with a potent and enduring example of artistic crusading. When the renowned English art cirtic Clive Bell met the Irishman in 1904, he was certain that ''The great event in O'Conor's life had been....his friendship - a close friendship as far as I could make out - with Gauguin....[his] strength of character and convincing style of talk made a deep impression on the young, or youngish, Irishman''. O'Conor owned no less than three oil paintings, two montotypes, a wood carving and numerous prints by the French master, continuing to add to the collection after they went their separate ways in 1895. Any one of the three Tahitian canvases he owned could have fuelled the creative leap of faith that he took when he embarked on his Breton seascape series. One need only compare the zones of luscious purple, pink, red and dark blue in the foreground of I Raro Te Oviri (Under the Pandanus Trees) with the interlocking wedges of pink, orange and red in Sur la C?te (Finist?re) in order to realise the extent of O'Conor's homage. He has applied what is effectively a South Seas palette to his renditions of the exposed coastline of northern France. The modernity of Sur la C?te (Finist?re) stems from its daring use of abstracted colours. O'Conor uses unnaturally bright pigments to express form, thereby liberating them from their representational function. He has learnt from Gauguin the importance of respecting the two-dimensional integrity of the canvas. Far from conveying recession and volume, the artist must organise his shapes and colours into an harmonious, intellectually satisfying configuration. By putting such ideas into practice, O'Conor demonstrated not only that he was in the vanguard of the most progressive contemporary European painting, but also that he was ahead of his time. It would take another six years, and the advent of a new century, before the Fauves started treating colour with a similar degree of expressive freedom. Feeling perhaps that the world was not yet ready for the chromatic fireworks of his Breton seascapes, O'Conor did not exhibit any of them until 1903. Even repeated entreaties from his friend, the artist Armand Seguin, could not induce him to reveal his hand any sooner. Seguin made one last appeal in March 1903: ''To return to my first thought and to explain myself better: one of your seascapes, you know from the series I admire, will not do your work justice, but the collecting together of these pictures would demonstrate your research, your burst of energy, declaring your intentions and the new beauty of your art.'' O'Conor first exhibited Sur la C?te (Finist?re) at the Salon des Ind?pendants of 1903, alongside another seascape of identical scale and ambition, La vague (collection of York City Art Gallery). The pairing of the two pictures, one dominated by a seemingly impenetrable bastion of rocks and the other by the relentless sea, would appear to have been quite deliberate. The absence of any human presence in these works suggests that here, at these extremities of western Europe, O'Conor found his personal Samoa. Jonathan Benington

Hammer Price : €500,000.00
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