Oil on canvas, signed lower right
Image size: 25 x 19 inches (64 x 48.5 cm)
Handmade gilt frame
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This work is sold with a certificate of authenticity and will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonné
In this striking painting the artist portray a bold interpretation of his beloved home environment of Vivirais. He uses strong colours and textured brushwork to depict a non-naturalistic landscape, very much in the Fauvist style that was emerging as a movement at the time. A gnarled tree trunk primarily focusses the viewer’s attention, then drawing the eye to the valleys and hills in the distance. The saturated colours suggest that this was painted in the height of summer, probably en plein air which was Deborne’s preferred method.
Robert Deborne was born in 1870 in Viviers, a small cathedral town in the South of France.
Little is known of the finer details of Deborne’s life and he remains rather an enigma. He was the son of a rich farmer, which gave him the opportunity to concentrate on his painting without financial pressures. Indeed, he was so dedicated that he abandoned his family just before the First World War, enabling him to focus completely on his work. Despite his prolificacy, he decided never to hold a solo exhibition nor had any connection with an art dealer to sell his works, although he exhibited often at the Salon d’Automne in Paris (becoming a member in 1923) and the Salon du Sud-Est.
A noted talent in his day, Deborne exhibited with major artists at the Salon du Sud-Est. This salon exhibition was on during the winter, which was perfect for Deborne as he was able to paint all summer, his preferred season. The Salon was a forum for unknown, innovative, emerging artists. His paintings were hung alongside works by Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Paul Gaugin, Georges Rouault, André Derain, Albert Marquet, Felix Vallotton and Edouard Vullard, to name but a few.
Deborne was exhibiting at the Salon du Sud-Est in 1905, the year when the press coined the then rather disparaging term of ‘Fauves’ (French for ‘wild beasts’) to describe artists using strong, separate, unnatural colours in a representational manner, moving away from the realism of impressionism. The phrase stuck and the new movement of Fauvism was recognised, of which Deborne was certainly a part and influenced by.
Deborne had a close friendship with Paul Signac with whom he exhibited on several occasions at the Salon de Sud-Est. Signac spent some time in Viviers with Deborne, and the two are known to have been together on the banks of the Rhône, sketching and painting.
He mostly painted scenes of Viviers, his home town on the Rhône and its environs. He also featured Nebbio in Corsica in many of his paintings. His works are very much centered on these places that he loved, and his depictions of the Rhône, its banks and the hills beside it are poetically marked by variations in time, weather and season. He was particularly fond of painting at dawn and dusk.
Robert Deborne returned to the same landscapes again and again, portraying them from different perspectives and in changing light. This was a deliberate choice – he wanted to share the beauty of these inspiring places that were immediately before him. Vivarais to Deborne was what the Montagne Sainte-Victoire was for Cézanne or the banks of the Creuse were for Guillaumin. These landscapes were his life, and every brushstroke illuminates the beauty of these places for others to experience.