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James Wilson Morrice

The Beach, Saint-Malo


James Wilson Morrice
Montreal 1865 – Tunis 1924


The Beach, Saint-Malo


About 1903


Oil on canvas


54.5 x 73.7 cm


Purchase, William Gilman Cheney and Dr. Francis J. Shepherd Bequests and A. Sidney Dawes and Robert Lindsay Funds, inv. 1947.980


Quebec and Canadian Art

Born into a well-to-do Montreal family, Morrice was primarily based in Paris but spent his life travelling, on the lookout for new sources of inspiration. Although Morrice never articulated his approach to art, the works of his youth recall the painting of Corot, who was admired by Harpignies, with whom Morrice studied. About the late 1890s, the importance he ascribed to the harmony of form and colour, above and beyond the subject, attests to the influence of American painter Whistler. In 1909, the critic Louis Vauxcelles, the author of those evocative terms “Fauvism” and “Cubism,” unequivocally stated the following: “Since the death of James McNeill Whistler [in 1903], J. W. Morrice is without a doubt the most successful North American painter in France.” The freedom of expression employed by the artist supports the critic’s view that Morrice was “neither a portraitist nor landscapist – simply a painter, and one of the best to-day.” Between 1890 and 1907, Morrice visited Saint-Malo on a number of occasions. This beach scene is pleasing for its light colour palette and the attention paid to the light effects, particularly the reflections on the water in the foreground. He has created a colourful ambience in which the splotch is more important than the subject.

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