11 December, 2022 – 26 February, 2023
April in Paris is proud to present a selection of paintings by Adolphe Monticelli (*14 October 1824 Marseille, FR | † 29 June 1886, Marseille, FR).
Adolphe Monticelli was an unconventional and uniquely free artist. Monticelli’s oeuvre defies categorization into any one genre and would prove an unicum and a crucial inspiration to later artists such as Van Gogh and Cézanne.
His work is often linked to the Impressionists. Yet, his use of light and color and his spontaneous brush strokes were not calculations or theories as they were for the Impressionists in Paris. Monticelli evolved his own purely intuitive language.
Different and distinctly more ’modern’ than the plein air painters of his time Monticelli was not creating an impression of a scene before him, his depictions of the landscape came from within, enhanced by his original fantasy and experiences from his childhood in the Provence. As was such, his brushwork was more liberal and abstract than any painter who had success before him.
Generally, the artist’s work is distinguished between the park scenes (or fêtes galantes) and the “other works”, such as still lifes, portraits, bouquets and landscapes.
Monticelli’s relevance is found in that, regardless the subject matter of the painting, he investigated the abstract and expressive properties of color and developed his own individual, daring free style of painting, in which richly colored, dappled, textured and glazed surfaces produced a scintillating effect. By virtue thereof, some critics considered him a ‘dauber’.
Monticelli’s technique and handling were surprisingly contemporary. He wiped the colors with a hard brush or cloth, spreading paint with his fingers, and used contrasting complementary colors, isolating elements of his composition with heavy outlines. He played with employing bright dots in ‘major’ colors against neutral backgrounds.
The paintings from his final 15 years were most direct.
The paint appears to be applied on the wood directly from the tube: a technique that the Fauves would further develop. Monticelli’s manner of painting developed slowly from figurative romantic scenes to an abstract style. The paint no longer served only to depict a scene: the material itself became as important as the subject.
Today, he is generally seen as the archetypal misunderstood genius who provided a steppingstone for modern painters such as the Fauves and even abstract art.
He influenced Cézanne in the use of thicker paint and painterly freedom, the two artists often roaming the Aix-en-Provence countryside and painting landscapes together. His thickly painted and spontaneous approach prefigured that of van Gogh, who greatly admired his work after seeing it in Paris when he arrived there in 1886
Van Gogh immediately adopted a brighter palette and a bolder attack, and later remarked to the French art critic Albert Aurier:
"“[Monticelli] is – as far as I know – the only painter who perceives the coloration of things with such intensity, with such a metallic, gem-like quality – if you will please go and see a particular bouquet […] in white, forget-me-not blue and orange, then you will feel what I mean" and “I sometimes think I am really continuing that man.""
Van Gogh and his brother Theo collected his work and in 1890, were instrumental in publishing the first book about Monticelli.
Monticelli’s work is included in countless public collections, in the United States, Europa and Asia. In the Netherlands his work has been the subject a number of important surveys in 1959 at Museum Boijmans van Beuningen (Rotterdam) and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.
The show at April in Paris features 13 paintings and one charcoal drawing, including some fine examples of landscapes, park and street scenes and a bouquet.
We are very grateful to Mr. Marc Stammegna for authenticating all the works in the exhibition, providing expert advice and for inspiring us even more to continue bringing the work of this artist to the attention of the public again.