Henri Edmond CROSS (Douai 1856 - Saint-Clair 1910)

A Tree Sold

Watercolour, over traces of an underdrawing in pencil.
Signed with initials HE.C at the lower left.
223 x 157 mm. (8 3/4 x 6 1/8 in.)


Watercolours such as the present sheet occupied Cross throughout his career, and particularly in its later stages. In March 1900 Cross wrote to his fellow painter Charles Angrand that he was concentrating his activities on watercolour painting, adding that ‘C’est amusant. L’absolue nécessité d’être rapide, hardi, insolent même, apporte dans le travail une sorte de fièvre bienfaisante après le mois de langeur passés sur des peintures dont l’idée fut irréfléchie.’

Cross would make these drawings from nature, having already begun with an idea of what colour combinations and forms he would need, and having developed these basic ideas in the studio. As Cross wrote to one critic, ‘I compose in the studio, coming as close as possible to my interior vision; then, the harmony being established, partly on paper and canvas, and partly in my head, I set about making my sensations objective – sensations corresponding to the initial vision – in front of nature. These documentary sketches, during the definitive execution of the painting, more often than not are behind me or in a filing box.’

Datable to c.1905, the present sheet may be compared stylistically with such drawings as a watercolour study of trees at Saint-Clair, dated 1908, in the collection of the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Dijon. It is with reference to drawings like this that Cross would write in his notebooks aphorisms and aides-mémoires such as ‘Watercolour. A form of writing. The great role played by the paper. The Japanese.’ and ‘Not the object itself, but a transfiguration based on a concordance of lines, a harmony of color. A certain beautiful form embellished by certain magnificent colors will interest us: it might be that it corresponds to a tree.’

Alexander Schick, Berlin
By descent to a private collection, until 2008.

Henri Edmond CROSS

A Tree


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