Maurice Estève

MAURICE ESTÈVE (French 1904-2001) 'Untitled' watercolour, 1989.

Tachisme, from the French word “tache”, meaning stain, developed in the middle of the 20th Century as the European version of Abstract Expressionism in the US, and Maurice Estève has been one of its foremost representatives, although he defined himself a “non-representational” artist, rather than an abstractionist.

Also associated with the École de Paris, a denomination that encompasses a wide range of artists active in the French capital during the first half of the same century, by the names of Chagall, Utrillo, Modigliani and Tsuguharu Fujita, to name but a few, but also the Delaunays, with whom Estève collaborated in 1937 for the decoration of the aviation and railway pavilions at the Paris Universal Exhibition, which led to a mutual influence in their respective art vocabulary.

Aside from Matisse, Bonnard and Villon, the main figure that significantly contributed to the formation of his style was Cezanne; in his own words: “(he) is the artist who has always comforted me. He makes me want to paint. He indicates the endless possibilities of evolution, gives confidence and opens up horizons; this is a permanent and fascinating encouragement. And what sincerity he has! Part of his greatness doubtless lies in the fact that it was impossible for him to cheat…Each of his gestures over the work is a response to an absolute need, profound, urgent and vital. A saint of painting”[1].

Lot 78 in the 26th January Fine Sale, a work from his mature years, is a watercolour that positions itself at the end of a research process started in the early ‘50s, when his production began to display an increasing formal authority and he reached a perfect control of his palette, whilst abandoning all references to the external world.

This pursuit was investigated in every medium, and in watercolours he found a particularly versatile technique: “there is the transparency of the colour produced by the water which sometimes allows us to see the paper…and I rework the parts which don’t satisfy me. I work with watercolour in the same way that I work with oil – for long periods”[2].

International recognition came for Estève during the mid-‘40s, with a particularly successful reception in Scandinavia (exhibiting in 1946 at the Stedelijk Museum at Amsterdam with Bazaine and Lapicque, then in 1947 the same group in Copenhagen and Stockholm), which is where the offered work comes from.

With a long and prolific career that granted him the spotlight in collections such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York and the Tate Gallery, watercolours similar to our Fine Sale’s star lot have always thrived at auction, the latest example previously soaring as high as €58000 at Sotheby’s on 6th June this year.

- Daniela Guardiani

[1] Maurice Estève, Zodiaque, April, 1979

[2] idem

Maurice Estève

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