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

Studies of Waves

Pencil and watercolour. Laid down.
Inscribed toutes les vaguettes beaucoup pl. claires. / octogone plus [?] que vaguette / comme un réseau in pencil at the upper left.
Stamped with the studio stamp H.E.C. (Lugt 1305a) at the lower left.
101 x 169 mm. (4 x 6 5/8 in.)


In March 1900 Cross wrote to his fellow painter Charles Angrand that he was concentrating his activities on watercolours, adding that ‘It’s fun. The absolute necessity to be quick, bold, even insolent, has brought a kind of beneficial feverishness into my work after the months spent languishing on my paintings...’ As Patrick Offenstadt has noted of Cross, ‘His technical mastery and sure hand allowed him to be bold, while his chronic arthritis drew him to the medium because it forced him to work ‘light’. Watercolour was therefore the result – and great beneficiary of both his physical suffering and his genius.’

A number of comparable drawings are to be found in a small sketchbook used by Cross, which was published in a facsimile edition in 1959. As John Rewald noted of the drawings in that sketchbook, ‘For Cross, the birth of a work of art started at the moment a scene or an object caught his attention, when he recognized the need to record, even in a few quick strokes, the aspect that had struck him. In this way, his sketches lead us to the source of his art and reveal to us a man observing nature without posturing and without any definite intention. This is why the pages in this little sketchbook are precious, these more or less fugitive notations, of an intimate nature, through which the artist seems to grasp the image of his fortuitous encounters with nature.’

As the artist himself once said, ‘If I draw a little haphazardly on a rectangle of paper, searching for a harmony of values rather than a preoccupation with form, it may be that the unexpected gives birth to forms which I can then define through my experience. The unexpected has played its role and my little knowledge has defined the forms of my subconscious.’

The studio of the artist, Saint-Clair
Possibly the Cross atelier sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 28 October 1921
Anonymous sale, Paris, Hôtel Drouot, 20 November 1995
Private collection (‘M. et Mme. H.’), Paris.

Henri Edmond CROSS

Studies of Waves


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