Louis Valtat

1869 (Dieppe) - 1952 (Paris)

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Louis Valtat is one of the pre-eminent painters of the postimpressionist period; his style is of the expressive, Van Gogh-influenced variety of postimpressionism, as opposed to the more decorative style of Bonnard and Matisse. His early work is renowned for its vivid colors and expressive use of thick paint. His later work became rather more stylized and while he still used bright colors and impasto there is less expressive brushwork and a greater reliance on design and outline.

When aged 17 he applied for admission to the Fine-Art School, having as illustrious teachers Gustave Boulanger, Jules Lefebvre, and Benjamin Constant. The first paintings he entered for the Salon des Artistes Indépendants in 1893 were scenes of the daily life in the surrounding streets including Sur le Boulevard, favorably commented on by art critic Félix Fénéon.

Around this time he began to suffer from tuberculosis and he went down on the Mediterranean coast, where George de Monfreid introduced him to Aristide Maillol. Together they made a number of trips to Llança and Figueras in Spain. In 1895 in Arcachon, Louis Valtat painted numerous canvases in very violent tones, ten years before Fauvism that again attracted the attention of Félix Fénéon. Since 1898 he spent autumn and winter with his wife Suzanne in the south: Agay, Antheor, etc. In 1900 on the advice of Renoir, Ambroise Vollard made an agreement with Valtat, buying almost all his work for the next ten years.

The distance from Anthéor to Saint Tropez was about forty kilometers, so that it was easy to make a day’s visit to Paul Signac in the Bollée. In the spring and summer Louis Valtat went eagerly to Normandy, to get back to the seaside and above all to paint, staying in Port en Bessin, Arromanches, and later at Ouistreham.

Louis Valtat was involved in the Fauvist uproar at the 1905 Salon d’Automne, one of his canvases was reproduced in the magazine L’Illustration next to paintings by Manguin, Matisse, Derain and Puy. In 1924 he bought a house in Choisel, where he spent most of the year. His garden, and the flowers and fruit that he grew there, became the principle sources of inspiration for his painting. There he enjoyed entertaining his friends Georges d’Espagnat and Maximilien Luce.