This early 20th-century grisaille by French artist André Paulin Bertrand (1852-1940) depicts a winding river landscape, possibly the River Seine.
When we consider the Impressionists, there’s an abundance of associated romance surrounding their lifestyle. Monet, clutching an easel, meandering along the Boulevard des Capucines. Renoir pitching up alongside the River Seine. Both hastily trying to capture the light before it changes.
But the reality of working this way is one of frustration as a view rarely remains the same for any length of time. For this reason, Monet worked on numerous canvases simultaneously, reverting to each when the conditions were appropriate. Only then could he truly render what he saw. Having studied letters from the Impressionists, their glumness is palpable - not only due to their dire finances but also their struggles with nature.
André Paulin Bertrand was a ‘neo-impressionist’ who worked a little differently. To overcome the issues relating to changeable light, he blended two different philosophies. On one hand, he painted ‘en plein air’, as per the Impressionists. While on the other, he worked in his studio in a traditional way - often beginning with an accurate drawing. As such, critics referred to him as an impressionist that could actually draw.
Here, we see an example of his ‘working out’ in the form of a grisaille. These monochromatic images help an artist to consider values rather than hues, e.g. consider the lighter and darker areas of a composition. Based upon this, Bertrand could potentially create a finished work in colour either from his studio or once again head outside.
He often worked on the Côte d'Azur where the light can reach dizzying heights and, when captured literally, is often too luminous for most tastes. So, again, grisailles aid the process by abstracting values from an overwhelmingly bright vista.
Bertrand’s finished paintings are often quite sublime. An intelligent artist who balanced a technical process with an impressionistic spirit.
Signed lower left and held within a contemporary glazed frame.
Medium: Mixed media on paper
Overall size: 30½” x 24” / 77cm x 61cm
Year of creation: c. 1910
Labels & Inscriptions: Gallery label from Eland Brothers of Exeter, England, which operated in around 1910. Further label with title.
Condition: Artwork presents well.
Artist’s auction maximum: £7,896
André Paulin Bertrand
André Paulin Bertrand trained under Pierre Decoreis and later at the School of Fine Arts in Toulouse and the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He exhibited widely including at the Salon des Artistes Français and the universal exhibitions of London, Brussels, and Sao Paolo. Today, he’s represented in numerous public collections such as the Musée d'Art de Toulon.
Learn more about André Paulin Bertrand in our directory.