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Valencia 1884 – Drome 1945
Self - Portrait, 1908
Oil on board, 45 x 35 cm
Signed and dated lower left: Moïse Arnaud 1908
Above on the back: Le Peintre. Moise Arnoud. /Paris. Mai. 1908
Stamped below: Collection/ Gérald Schurr/ Paris
Gérard Schurr Collection, Paris; Rome, private collection
The Artist Face-to-Face: two centuries of self-portraits from the Paris collection of Gérald Schurr, The Taft Museum of Art, Cincinnati, 15 September – 27 October 1989, n. 7;
Collection Gerald Schurr. Portraits d’artistes , Binoche, Paris, 22-23 May 2000, p. 34
This self-portrait may be considered a splendid painting by Moïse Arnaud who, in his mature years, chose to express his talent by painting landscapes, often remarked on in the press of his day. The “Mercure de France”, for example, carried an article voicing appreciating for his artistic talent, which it calls “très nuancé et précis” (1). The stamp on the back of the painting tells us that it once belonged to the famous collection of self-portraits owned by celebrated French journalist and art critic Gérald Schurr (1915–89), author of the Dictionnaire des petits maîtres de la peinture 1820-1920.
Benzit (2) points out that Arnaud was a member of the Société des artistes indépendants, an association founded on the principle of abolishing the juries that admitted artists’ work to exhibitions in order to allow the artists themselves to submit their work freely and directly to the judgment of the general public, a wish which appears to underpin every one of the artist’s paintings. He himself described his work as “n’appartenant en vérité à aucune des écoles qui s’efforcent, par ces temps de bluff et de réclame, d’attirer l’attention du public” (3).
In 1908, when he painted this self-portait, Arnaud was a young man of thirty who was already very much aware of his exceptional talent as a colourist. Unlike other artists, he chose not to portray himself in his work clothes but in a moment possibly just before or after working. He almost seems to have just doffed his painter’s smock, or to be about to don it, as he gazes enigmantically and quizzically into the distance. His broad and spacious forehead, his lightly arched eyebrows, his vibrant gaze and his thick beard in the style of the day are all rendered with small brush strokes which create a painted fabric made of different hues that come together to form a vibrant, luminous surface.
The colours of the wallpaper in the background, like those of his face, his hair and his shirtsleeves peeping out of his waistcoat, reveal the extent to which Arnaud had developed his own take on Michel Eugène Chevreul’s (1786–1889) theories on colour. Those theories had previously inspired George Seurat when he painted “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” (1884–6), a painting shown at the Impressionists’ last collective exhibition, after which the age of Impressionism may be considered to have ended and the very composite age of Post-Impressionism to have begun.
By elective affinity, Moïse’s art is fairly close to the ideals of Paul Serusier and his landscape painting. Thus it was no mere coincidence that, as early as in 1919, he found himself showing alongside Paul Signac and Édouard Fer (the author of Principes scientifiques du néo-impressionisme) at an exhibition of modern French painting held at the Galerie Du Rhône in Geneva, together with artists who earned the esteem of Léon Durand: “enthousiastes resteront pour avoir dégagé la peinture des formules surannées sans tomber dans les abstractions ultra-modernistes de ceux qui nous semblent encore en dehors du domaine plastique de l’art!” (4).
- Gustave Kahn, A l’exposition des Aquarellistes indépendants, in “Mercure de France”, a. 36, tome CLXXVIII, n. 642, Paris 15 March 1925, p. 828
- Bénézit, Dictionnaire des peintres sculpteurs graveurs dessinateurs, vol. I, Grund Paris 1976, p. 269.
- Raymond Manevy, Une belle exposition de quatre indépendants, in “le Peuple”, Paris 6 /11/ 1921, p. 2; l’autore prosegue notando: “Moïse Arnaud nous conduit sur les plateaux de Montfermeil, qu’il traduit avec des tons violents, des bleus et des violets, des jaunes d’un effet impressionnant”.
- Leon Dunand, Exposition de Peinture Moderne Française ( Paul Signac, Maximilien Luce, Louis Valtat, Edouard Fer, Lucie Cousturier, Selmersheim-Desgrange, Moïse Arnaud, Henri Ottmann, Charles Camoin, Roger Grillon, Picart Le Doux, Louis Le Bail, B. Mahn, Félix Roussel), du 15 novembre au 9 décembre , Galerie du Rhône, Genéve 1919.