Along with Henri Matisse, Henri-Charles Manguin was one of the most stylishly colorful painters of the 20th century. Alike all other members of the Fauvism movement that sprang to prominence in 1905, Manguin was inclined towards landscape painting. However, he also produced many outstanding female nudes and still life paintings. His bright but not flashy colour, his rare talent for decorative simplification while preserving the impression of light and glitter, and his small-scale pictures became very popular with French art collectors.
All five oil paintings displayed by Manguin at the 1905 Salon d'Automne were bought right away. Amboise Vollard bought one hundred and fifty of the artist's paintings the next year. In the years that come, Henri Manguin befriended Henri-Edmond Cross and Félix Vallotton, and the latter put him in touch with important Swiss collectors.
Thus, in his thirties, Henri Manguin has already became a popular and prosperous artist who developed his own distinctive style.
Henri Matisse, Albert Marquet, Charles Camoin, Georges Rouault, Jean Puy, and Louis Valtat who were his fellow students.
Gustave Moreau began teaching late in his life and he was remembered as a liberal and flexible teacher. Nonetheless, like other art students of the time, his pupils improved their art by making copies of paintings by Old Masters in the Louvre Museum. Manguin was among those as well. At the same time his style was greatly influenced by Impressionists as evidenced by his use of bright pastel hues.
Above: Henri Manguin, Self-portrait. 1905 (approximately 31 years old). Private collection.
In 1899, Henri Manguin married Jeanne Marie Carette, whose nude body and portraits we see in many of his paintings during thirty years. Together, they moved to a house in Rue Bourgault. Manguin built a large studio with assembled panels near it in the garden. And it was frequently attended, among others, by Matisse, Marquet, Derain, Camoin and Puy to discuss ideas and paint models ordered by Manguin, thus becoming the place where Fauvism took shape.
1.2. Henri Manguin. Jeanne at the Fountain, Villa Demiere. 1904
For the first time Henri Manguin exhibited in 1902 at the Salon des Indépendants. Later he became an associate of the Salon d’Automne and remained faithful to Fauvism until the end of his life.
Manguin’s subjects are women, landscapes, mostly Mediterranean, and still lifes with flowers, fruits, and other food — all of great balance and harmony. The artist considered himself to be the painter of a happy life, depicting the most harmonious aspects of the world. Tristan Klingsor, a French poet, musician, painter and art critic mentioned Manguin in his book La Peinture (1921): "his search for bright, vibrant colours, his outbursts of orange, his sumptuous reds…even the shadows contribute to the levity and gaiety, often taking on tones of green."
1.2. Henri Manguin, Saint-Tropez, Sunset. 1904
In September 1904, Paul Signac invited Manguin to visit Saint-Tropez, where Henri was captivated by the southern light. Manguin had not fall under the influence of Signac's pointillism, but rather continued in his search for the harmony in a variety of chromatic colors and the balance in composition.
Manguin visited Saint-Tropez again the following year and bought a property there in 1920. From the 1920s onward, he alternated his life in Paris with long periods in Saint-Tropez, Marseille, and Neuilly-sur-Seine. He also travelled extensively in Italy, Switzerland and Belgium looking for the landscapes to paint, following this half-nomadic lifestyle and never staying long in any one place until the World War II.
After a short illness, he died in Saint-Tropez on 25 September 1949, at the age of 75.
Undoubtedly, Claude Monet and other Impressionist painters were an early inspiration for Henri Manguin. However, it was Paul Cézanne who was his most important influence. Manguin saw the 1907 Cézanne retrospective at the Salon d'Automne after the artist's death and was greatly affected by it; not so much because of Cézanne's painting construction, but because of his harmonious colours and tones, and his manner of introducing light.
1.2. Henri Manguin, Still life. 1909
What's peculiar about Henri Manguin is that he always remained close to nature, observing it with joyful sensuality. He felt and expressed it as part of himself. Pierre Bonnard once said: "Manguin took landscape as it really is. He understood it. It was for him magic, a melody, a love song."
The exhibition Manguin La Volupté de la Couleur features almost a hundred works, including oil paintings, watercolours and drawings. The first section explores Manguin’s formative period, when his work soon stood out for the organisation of colour in his compositions.
1.2. Henri Manguin, Little Italian Girl. 1903
The second section focuses on his Fauvist period including works created in Saint-Tropez that reflect the dazzling surroundings of the Mediterranean in intense colours. Apart from his Arcadian landscapes, the flamboyant female nudes convey Manguin’s sense of exaltation at the natural paradise around him as well. Paintings of this period carried his art to its peak.
1.2. Henri Manguin, La Faunesse, Villa Demière. 1905
A set of drawings and watercolors by Manguin illustrate his quest for compositional balance and the liberation of colour at the dawn of the 20th century.
1.2. Henri Manguin, Prints. 1905
1.2. Henri Manguin, Jeanne at the dressing table. Etude. 1903
Works from the Fauvist period are highlights of the display. They claim the audacity of Manguin among the Fauvist fellow artists in his quest for new means of expression through the use of colour. With their sumptuous chromatic harmonies and illusion of glittering light, these paintings reflect Manguin’s rare talent and creativity.
Written on materials of Fondation de l'Hermitage, museothyssen.org, visual-arts-cork.com. Title illustration: Henri Manguin, Enfant endormi, Claude Manguin, 1912. Huile sur toile, 81 x 100 cm. Kunsthaus Zürich, legs Dr Hans Schuler, 1920. Photo tous droits réservés © 2018, ProLitteris, Zurich.