Aaron M. and Clara Weitzenhoffer
Maurice de Vlaminck (French, 1876–1958)
The Seine at Chatou (La Seine à Chatou) River Scene, c. 1910
Oil on canvas
20 ¾ x 25 ¼ in.
Aaron M. and Clara Weitzenhoffer Bequest, 2000
Maurice de Vlaminck, along with his colleagues Henri Matisse and André Derain, formed the core of the group known as les Fauves, so named by critic Louis Vauxcelles, who saw their work beside a traditional bust at the Salon d’Automne in 1905 and claimed it was like seeing Donatello among “les fauves” or the “wild beasts.” Vlaminck was a self-taught painter and met Matisse in 1901 while sharing a studio with Derain in Chatou, a commune northwest of Paris and also Vlaminck’s hometown. Les Fauves exhibited together loosely beginning in 1905 and, although the group did not disband until 1910, the last major exhibition of their work was held at the Salon des Indépendants in 1907.
That same year, Vlaminck attended a retrospective of the work of Paul Cézanne at the Salon d’Automne. Under the spell of Cézanne, Vlaminck moved away from the intense color combinations of his Fauve paintings towards a reserved, somber palette and a greater emphasis on the careful construction of form. The Seine River at Chatou provided the vehicle for Vlaminck’s investigations and, in La Seine à Chatou, he reduces the foliage and buildings of the scene to simple, almost geometric shapes constructed by heavy black contours and broad, planar strokes of paint. Chatou seems quiet in the painting, though it had become a popular destination for Parisians by this time, especially among those interested in rowing. The prominence of the river in the composition may allude indirectly to the popular sport, which often figured in his earlier Fauve paintings of the scene, yet Vlaminck was far more interested in translating his perception of the Chatou landscape into Cézanne’s technique.