Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer
Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva
Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer (1865-1953)
Lake Geneva
1925
Pastel
H. 57; W. 72 cm
© DR – Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt

Le lac Léman [Lake Geneva]


To the Symbolists, forever in search of the sensuous, the landscape genre was, on the face of it, without interest. One of them, however, Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer, who had first achieved recognition for his portraits, painted many landscapes, from 1910 onwards. But he did so without turning his back on the Symbolist ideal, choosing important historical and cultural sites for his landscapes, like Versailles and its park, enabling him to cultivate both his nostalgia for the past and his taste for refinement.

Later, in 1925, then again in 1935, the artist produced a series of landscapes in Savoie on the shores of the Lac du Bourget, Lake Garda and, as here, Lake Geneva. His use of pastel enabled him to bring about a truly poetic transformation of the location. Pastel's powdery, delicate texture produces a tremulous, misty effect in which detail disappears. Reality, as if held at a distance, gives way to a sublime vision, and with the use of stump, the water, land and sky become fused, their natural properties intermingling. This communion of the elements produces an atmosphere of mystery enhanced by the luminous yet hazy sunrise reflected on the lake.

A true variation on blue – a spiritual colour if there is such a thing - this work of Lévy-Dhurmer pushes the boundaries of representation. The artist seems to explore the virtues of colour for its own sake, where monochrome is the ultimate achievement.


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