Medium: Oil on canvas
Size: 80 x 64.5 cm
Signed: Lower left: bears the 2016 estate sale stamp
Estate of the artist, thence by descent; Sotheby’s Paris, Collection Boutet de Monvel, 5-6 April 2016.
Boutet de Monvel spent a year in Fez while serving in the French air force, producing a series of paintings both of the city and its inhabitants. On first arriving he wrote of an “implausibly beautiful” city and noted his intention to work “night and day on landscapes and albums”. He rented a house in the heart of Fes el Bali and set up his easel on the rooftop, observing how the light changed the appearance of the buildings laid out before him, according to the time of day. These varied renderings, often of an almost identical view, sometimes take on a sense of the abstract – the interlocking rectangles of the houses rooves and sides sometimes lit, sometimes in shadow, disguising the reality of peeling walls and narrow alleys that housed a city teeming with life.
Whether the artist intended to leave our painting unfinished or complete it later, it nonetheless represents a modernist vision that was painted contemporaneously with both cubism and futurism, to both of which this painting can be directly related.