Marquet alongside friends and fellow students at the Atelier Moreau; Matisse, Rouault and Camoin, was one of the original Fauve artists, exhibiting at the scandalous Salon d’Automne in 1905. Positioned in the stylistic wake of Impressionism and teetering on the brink of Modernity, he played a pivotal role within post-impressionist progressions towards a more coherent and rigourous methodology for art.
Having assimilated and interpreted the aggressive fauve palette, Marquet progressed towards more modernist reductions of tone and form. Captivated by water, Marquet adored traveling and used ports and aquatic scenes as the principal subject of his oeuvre. Water became almost a tool for abstraction, enabling him to develop his own intuitive minimalism, capturing the essence of a scene from the scarcest of touches.
After traveling across Spain in 1932, with the Camoins, Marquet and wife Marcelle continued on towards eastern Europe, finally stopping in Galatz on the banks of the Danube. Marquet found the working conditions too static however, so borrowing a friend’s boat, headed out on the river. Marquet was immediately seduced by the flow of aquatic traffic and network of waterways. The subtle colours, nuances and variations of light on water inspire him to explore Vienna by boat. Traveling slowly throughout spring 1933, he paints numerous watercolours which take in the city and surrounding countryside.
The subtle tones and soft washes within this watercolor of the Danube are characteristic of the sombre colours which tend to coincide with Marquet’s more northerly journeys in Europe. This limited palette, dominated by browns and greys, leads to greater attention to pictoral structure, where even scarcest tones of the sky and water become interpretations of space and atmosphere. Within this work entitled ‘Silver birches in the wind’ Marquet captures brilliantly the changeable springtime atmosphere. Using the simplest of touches he evokes the sharp gusts across the river, clouds travelling rapidly through the sky and the slender trees being forced to bend in the wind.