Musée d'Orsay: Charles Cottet Evening Light

Charles Cottet
Evening Light

Evening Light at the Port of Camaret
Charles Cottet (1865-1925)
Evening Light at the Port of Camaret
Oil on canvas
H. 74; W. 110 cm
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d'Orsay) / Hervé Lewandowski

Rayons du soir, port de Camaret [Evening Light at the Port of Camaret]

Although light and colour seem to be the principal elements, this painting is in fact a triumph in the use of line. Leaving movement and uncertainty to the sea and to the sky, the painter has constructed his work by simply directing the light to the top of the masts, the stone of the buildings and the granite of the coast. And although the sails are lit by the dying rays of the sunset, they seem to be made of monolithic, rigid canvas.
Here, that dissolution of the image so dear to the Impressionists is rejected. Cottet's painting is dispassionate, the manifesto of a reaction. At this time, the Nabis, or the "black band", to which the artist belonged, were questioning the instantaneous, moving vision of their elders. Although the first Nabis were attracted to Primitivism, pure colour and the rejection of western traditions, the second wave turned towards the classics. It was from these that they took their inspiration for the solid elements in their works.
In this view of the port of Camaret, Cottet uses the classical rules of composition, without compromising his qualities as a daring colourist. Moreover it is this aspect which quickly made him the symbol of renewal in painting. Rayons du soir, port de Camaret even made Cottet one of the most popular representatives of young French painting in international exhibitions.

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