Procession au Crépuscule is Devambez’s largest known pastel. It depicts a candlelit procession making its way to a church or monastery, as seen from afar. The scene is as poetic as it is solemn. Its composition emphasizes the glow of the candles in response to the last rays of the setting sun on the tree trunks in the foreground, while the sea can be glimpsed in the distance, on the left. The composition’s warm, summery atmosphere and the vegetation, which is desiccated in places, suggest that the religious procession is celebrating the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The almost pure pastel pigments are well suited to transcribing the evening’s golden light on the bark of the trees as the blue hour begins. The work’s main interest and success lie in the remarkable contrast been the warmth of the yellows and ochres and the bluish tones assumed by the landscape’s depths as night falls. This pastel, or at least the idea behind it, may date back to the 1890s, when Devambez was in Italy as a resident at Villa Medicis.
Procession au Crépuscule, which, like La Charge, dates from 1902, sheds interesting light on Devambez’s early career. The artist stands out for his bird’s-eye views and plunging perspectives, which earned him the nickname of “6th floor painter”. Without adopting his preferred viewpoint, this pastel bears witness to his liking for objectively observed scenes of gatherings. Although Devambez tried his hand at all painting techniques over the course of his career, his pastels are few and far between, which makes this particular work somewhat unusual.
Musée d’Orsay’s collection currently features eight of André Devambez’s paintings, dating from 1902 to 1934 and including the famous La Charge. The acquisition of Procession au Crépuscule is a welcome addition to the ensemble formed by the artist’s works, while also emphasizing the remarkable diversity of his creations. The work will be presented in the “Pastels. From Millet to Redon” exhibition, open to the public from March 14th 2023 onwards.