La Vieux Bateau, Morgat
oil on canvas
21.6 x 29 inches
signed lower right
Maufra’s depiction of this idyllic French seaside landscape is a view modern visitors would recognize more than a hundred years later. Morgat sits on the Crozon peninsula, one of three small fingers of land at the westernmost edge of Brittany, on France’s Atlantic coastline. A former fishing village, today Morgat is mainly a seaside resort, popular with French tourists and little known to outsiders. A natural cove, Morgat’s beach is a wide, curving crescent of white sand, next to clear blue waters, all set below rocky outcrops.
Walks along the coast were and are popular to explore the beach and enjoy the extraordinary beauty of the location. Perhaps the two gentlemen seen here were out to explore the multicolored sea caves for which Morgat beach is best known when they came upon the bones of a ship set upon the beach.
The artist’s work here shows multiple influences brought by travel and exposure to other artists. He studied the late work of J.M.W. Turner marrying the active brush of that artist with a love of light and impasto paint application found in the impressionist movement. Brushwork in the clouds is particularly skillful as are impasto touches which bring the rugged landscape to life. His longtime friendship with Paul Gaughin and others of the Pont Aven School, known for a vibrant color palette, clearly influenced Maufra’s rich, deep colors seen here. The thick application of paint captures the brilliant blue depth of the sea while subtle tones on the beach contrast with deep greens in the trees above.
Maufra lived in Montmartre in Paris during the period when this work was painted, surrounded by other artists and near the most important gallery for impressionist artists, Galerie Durand-Ruel. Durand-Ruel put Maufra under contract in 1896 and hosted many exhibitions of his work. However, when the artist wanted to paint he always went back to his native Brittany, painting at seaside resorts throughout the region. It is these paintings of the French coastline for which he is best known. In outstanding condition, this work typifies the best of this artist and of his period.
The final image here shows the painting from the side in low light to highlight the many areas of impasto paint application.