ACCENT JULY-AUGUST 2016
Albert Marquet (1875 - 1947)
The Port of Algiers
Oil on canvas; 60 x 81 cm
Albert Marquet was born at Bordeaux. At the age of fifteen he attended École des Arts Decoratifs in Paris. Later, at the École des Beaux-Arts, he was a pupil of Gustave Moreau, a symbolist artist who was a follower of the Romantic tradition of Eugène Delacroix. It was there where he met Henri Matisse and they became lifelong friends. In 1901-1902 Marquet exhibited paintings at the Salon des Indépendants.
His early compositions were expressive and brightly colored, much like the work of his contemporaries, which included Henri Matisse, Maurice de Vlaminck, André Derain, and Raoul Dufy. In 1905 they exhibited at the Salon d’Automne, where the descriptor fauves (wild beasts) was first coined in reaction to the intense coloration in the paintings on display. Although Marquet painted with the fauves for years, he used less bright and violent colours than the others, and emphasized less intense tones. He also painted some fine portraits and female nudes (1910-1914), but he was primarily a landscapist. His favourite themes were ports, bridges, and quays, subjects he depicted with unaffected simplicity and great sensitivity of tone.
Marquet alternated between working in his studio in Paris and many parts of the European coast and North Africa. Impressed by the charm of the Orient, amazed by the Arabic-moor’s architecture and the Mediterranean vegetation at the French colonies, he spent considerable time at Algeria, throughout the period 1923-1945. The port and the city of Algiers from its heights are among the most developed themes of his art from then.
Marquet passed away on 14 June 1947 and was buried at La Frette-sur-Seine, near Paris. His work is particularly well represented in the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Bordeaux, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, and The Museum of Modern Art in New York. There is a retrospective exhibition about the painter at the City of Paris` Museum of Ìodern Àrt from 25 March till 26 August 2016.
There are four works by Marquet at the National Gallery: Landscape, The Port of Algiers, The Red Cliffs and Algiers – the Port, all of them in its permanent exhibition.
The painting The Port of Algiers impresses with the exuberant green of the exotic vegetation that is depicted at the foreground. Predominant are the palm-trees that are typical for the warm Mediterranean climate. Among the green landscape, the French flag stands out, reminding of the status of Algeria as a French colony at that time. The city, washed with light, with its white houses, is represented in middle distance, encompassed by the port, flecked with vessels, drawn alongside the quay. A master in the depiction of water surfaces, Marquet pictures skillfully the contrast between the calm waters of the port and the Mediterranean Sea, sunk in white shroud. The gentle haze above the water gives the sea certain mystery during the otherwise clear, sunny day. The harmonious combination of the luxuriant green vegetation, slightly implicit urban landscape and the water expanse, painted with incredible softness, transmit the feeling of panorama to the composition. The canvas makes us be part of the bright day at the seacoast with gentle haze beyond the Port of Algiers.
Elitsa Bozhkova, curator