Maurice de Vlaminck’s name, correctly spelt ‘De Wlaminck’, means ‘Flemish man’. He was to sign his paintings simply ‘Vlaminck’. His father was Belgian, and his mother was from the Lorraine region; both were musicians. In 1879, the family settled in Le Vésinet (an affluent western Parisian suburb). Vlaminck married in 1894 and had two children. He also wrote novels, poems, and essays. From 1925, he settled in Rueil-la-Gadelière. He had no formal training, but in 1895, Jules Robichon, a member of the Société des Artistes Français, advised him on his drawing technique, as did Henri Rigal, with whom he worked on the Île de Chatou on the Seine. After his military service, from 1896 to 1899, he gave music lessons to earn a living and became a professional violinist for the Théâtre du Château d’Eau. When young, he liked the Impressionists; he met Claude Monet in 1900. A significant time in his life was the moment he met André Derain, with whom he rented a dilapidated studio on the Île de Chatou. They saw the 1901 Van Gogh exhibition together; Vlaminck was deeply moved by it. Vlaminck considered it a personal betrayal when Derain, who jointly presided over the École de Chatou, which had no other members, enrolled at the Académie to learn the basics of his ‘craft’; at the Académie, there was no need to show devotion to painters engaged in free expression.
Although he was four years older than Derain, Vlaminck only made an impact on the art world at the beginning of the 20th century: he was to become one of the Fauves. He didn’t exhibit too hastily; when he was nearly 30, he showed his work at the Galerie Berthe Weill in Paris in 1904, at the Salon des Indépendants in 1905, and at the famous ‘Cage aux Fauves’ at the Salon d’Automne in the same year. Subsequently, his loyalty would not lie with just one salon, as he preferred to show groups of paintings to the public in different galleries. In 1906, Vlaminck held his first important public exhibition at the dealer Vollard’s premises, after which he purchased everything in Vlaminck’s studio; then in 1919, he exhibited at the Galerie Druet.
In the study by André Mantaigne in 1929, the author recalled: ‘When he started painting, Vlaminck lived on the banks of the Seine. As he spent a great deal of time on the water, either rowing or sailing, and frequenting small restaurants with music and dancing, the subjects of his painting at that time preserve a flavour of an easy life and harmless excesses.’ By virtue of the technique he used in the few paintings he produced c. 1900, including Father Bouju (1900), Sengauzin Quay, Bougival (1902), My Neighbour’s Daughter (1904), and Le Havre Basins, the Grand Dock (1904), Vlaminck seemed to herald Russian-born painter Chaïm Soutine and the Central European Expressionists. André Mantaigne continued: ‘Then the moment of pure Fauvism arrives… Besides, Fauvism has never been a doctrine, as in the case of Pointillism. He has not tried to convey a deified or prejudiced ideal in his painting, with either colour or form. It has been an attempt at unification, a wish to express everything, a complete acknowledgement of all that exists simultaneously in space, light and conception.’ Colour emerging from the tube was an exciting concept for this innovator. These paintings were The Seine at Bougival and Fishermen (1905); Bridge at Conflans (1907); and Le Havre (1908).
Vlaminck was recognised as one of the Fauves during the few years he respected the rules of pure colour – using colour straight from the tube – until a time when his principles were moving away from the excessively scholarly study of the chemistry of colour, and when he often used less expensive paints. It is lamentable that many canvases produced at that time have not withstood the test of time very well. Between his Fauvist period and the final paintings of the landscapes of Beauce depicting a farm covered in snow, Vlaminck painted The Seine at Mantes (1908); The Seine at Chatou (1909); Church and Bridge, Île de France (1909); Fruit Basket (1909); Flowers (1910); Still-life (1911); Bridge at Poissy (1911); Portrait of Mme Kahnweiller (1911); and The Seine at Bougival (1912). These paintings show that Vlaminck still experienced a period when he ‘returned to form’, which he shared with Othon Friesz and Derain; in fact, this was a Post-Cézanne period, in which the construction of volume and space cautiously flirted with Cubism.
From about 1912 to his death in 1958, he was a painter of figures, produced in addition to landscapes and still-lifes. In the pages of Painters of My Time (Peintres de mon Époque), the poet and art writer Vanderpyl – of whom Vlaminck painted a fine portrait (1919) – noted: ‘A portrait by Vlaminck is also a landscape, a flesh-coloured landscape; springlike flesh or flesh lit by autumn; dry flesh like a poor soil.’ Claims made by his biographers that he produced no nudes are inaccurate. Vlaminck was also a lithographer and wood engraver. He used coloured lithographs for landscapes; his Indian ink drawings are rarer. He illustrated The Devil in the Flesh (Le Diable au Corps) by Raymond Radiguet; Abandoned Men (Les Hommes Abandonnés) by Georges Duhamel; In Following the Seine (En Suivant la Seine) by Gustave Coquiot; Mont-Cinère (Mont-Cinère) by Julien Green; Plump Normandy (Grasse Normandie) by G. Reuillard and Voyages (Voyages) by Vanderpyl. He also illustrated several of his own works, including Stories and Poems of My Time (Histoires et Poèmes de mon Époque); Communications (Communications), and Dangerous Corner (Tournant Dangereux).
Posthumously, his work was featured in diverse exhibitions devoted to Fauvism: 1951, 1957, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris; 1952–1953, Museum of Modern Art, New York; 1962, The Fauves (Les Fauves), Galerie Charpentier, Paris; 1999, Fauvism or ‘Trial by Fire’: The Eruption of Modernity in Europe (Le Fauvisme ou ‘l’Épreuve du Feu’, Éruption de la Modernité en Europe), Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris; 2001, Fauvism in Black and White. From Gauguin to Vlaminck, Fauvist Engraving and Its Setting (Le Fauvisme en Noir et Blanc. De Gauguin à Vlaminck, l’Estampe des Fauves et son Environnement), Musée d’Art Moderne, Villeneuve d’Ascq; 2003, Dancers and Bathers by Derain, Rouault and Vlaminck. 1905–1910 (Danseuses et Baigneuses chez Derain, Rouault et Vlaminck. 1905–1910), the Musée d’Art Moderne Lille Métropole, Villeneuve d’Ascq; 2002, Painters and Artists in the Perche Region, 19th–20th Centuries (Peintres et Artistes dans le Perche, 19e–20e Siècles), the Musée Château St-Jean, Nogent-le-Rotrou.
Retrospectives mounted posthumously include 1970, Maurice de Vlaminck (1876–1958): A Comprehensive Exhibition Commemorating the Ninetieth Anniversary Year of Vlaminck’s Birth, Wally F. Galleries, New York; 1987, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Chartres; and 2001, Derain and Vlaminck: 1900–1915 (Derain et Vlaminck: 1900–1915), Musée de Lodève.
Museum and Gallery Holdings
Avignon (Mus. Calvet): At the Bar (1900)
Berlin (Staatliche Mus.): Bridge at Chatou (1907)
Brussels (MAM): Le Compotier
Chartres (MBA): Father Bouju (1900, two entire rooms dedicated to the artist’s works)
Chicago (AI): Gardens at Chatou, or Houses at Chatou (1905)
Épinal (Mus. départemental d’Art ancien et contemporain): Winter Landscape
London (Tate Collection): Landscape near Martigues (1913, oil on canvas)
New York (Metropolitan MA): André Derain (1880–1954) (1906); Boats on the Seine at Chatou (1906); Sails at Chatou (1906); The Port of Le Havre (1906)
New York (MoMA): Autumn Landscape (1905)
Ottawa (NG of Canada): Locks at Bougival (1908)
Paris (BNF): St-Michael (1914, wood)
Paris (MNAM-CCI): Father Bouju or Man with Pipe (1900); Interior (1903–1904); Kitchen (1904); Street in Marly-le-Roi (1905–1906); Landscape with Red Trees (1906); House with Canopy (1920); Chartres; Stormy Landscape; The Hills at Rueil; House in the Trees; Bridge at Meudon; Cottages; Still-life with Grapes; Still-life with Fish; Still-life with Onions
St-Tropez (Mus. de l’Annonciade): Still-life (c. 1907)
Stuttgart (Staatsgal.): Still-life with Vase, Jug, and Fruit Bowl (c. 1908)
Tokyo (Bridgestone MA): Barge (1905)
Troyes (MAM, Pierre and Denise Lévy donation): Autumn Landscape (c. 1905); Landscape (c. 1905)
Washington, DC (NGA): Tugboat on the Seine, Chatou (1906, oil on canvas); Still-life with Lemons (1913–1914, oil on canvas)