Painted in Agay, 12 miles west of Cannes on the French Rivera, Agay, Phare de la Baumette, Baie de Boulouris, typifies the sublime coastal views of this region produced by Guillaumin throughout the second half of his life. Then as today, this region was an immensely popular holiday destination and the dramatic rocky shores and azure inlets and bays also drew the artist back from his home environs of Crozant year after year. Guillaumin, preferred to visit here in March and April when he could find the solitude and inspiration he sought well before the arrival of the summer crowds. As Christopher Gray explains in his 1971 biography of the artist, “ Agay is bold, almost brash in its coloration. The strong reds of the rocks, the Mediterranean blue of the sea and the sky as well as the boldness of the landscape, have an epic quality. Here, Guillaumin continued his custom of painting early in the morning and the late afternoon when the slanting light revealed most sharply the rugged forms of the landscape, and the yellowing rays of the sun darkened the blue of the sea, turning the rocks of Esterel crimson.”
Art history has occasionally lost sight of the importance of Jean-Baptiste-Armand Guillaumin’s work to the development of Modern art and only recently has his work been acknowledged to the degree it deserves. Guillaumin was a founding member of the now famous group of independent young French painters who organized the first Impressionist exhibit in 1874. Guillaumin’s revolutionary comrades included Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Edgar Degas, Paul Cezanne and Berthe Morisot. Guillaumin’s work appeared at six of the eight Impressionist exhibitions between 1874 and 1886. He lived the longest of all the founders of Impressionism, dying just after Claude Monet in 1927.
Guillaumin began humbly, working as a clerk at the Orleans railroad company and painting images of Montmartre and the quays of the Seine during the weekends. He studied painting at a local art school and later progressed to the Academie Suisse, where he met Cezanne and Pissarro, in 1861. Soon afterwards he exhibited at the Salon des Refuses in 1863. He painted in Pontoise in the 1870s with Pissarro and, accompanied by Cezanne, would often go to see art patron Dr. Gachet, who gave them help and encouragement. Guillaumin’s careful study
of light and color at the different times of the day was fundamental to the burgeoning Impressionist theory. The artist chose to paint outside the city, en plein-air, focusing on the ever-changing atmospheric effects in nature. Guillaumin observed the multitude of ways light touched the surface of the streets, skies, water, trees and people and was able to capture it on canvas with great subtlety and sensitive perception. Guillaumin had a passion for sunlight and was even seized and characterized by a sort of “violettomania” indicated by the number of his works tinted with a lilac hue. Guillaumin’s later works were marked by a passion for color that showed an alliance to the Fauves. The expressive and dynamic application of paint and the subtle use of impasto, reveals some of the inspiration Van Gogh had provided 12 years prior.
In recent years, Guillaumin’s paintings have become highly prized and sought after. He is now not only recognized as the teacher of Paul Signac and a close friend and respected companion of many famous artists, but as a fine and significant painter in his own right.
Museum Collections Include:
Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Detroit Institute of the Arts; Hermitage, St. Petersburg; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Aberdeen Art Gallery and Museums, Scotland; Cleveland Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art, Liege; Tate Gallery, London; Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid