Edouard Léon CORTÉS
Signed Edouard Cortès (lower right)
“I do nothing but paint. I stand in front of my easel at around eight in the morning; from twelve to two I eat lunch and rest, and I paint in the afternoon till dusk, because I don’t like artificial light. That gives me eight to ten hours a day to paint”.
Èdouard Leon Cortès, the son of a court painter Antonio Cortès was born in Lagny, close to Paris at the end of the XIX century, when The City of Lights was the artistic capital of the world and when the new art, symbolised by the Impressionism had already been spread. Cortès was primarily trained by his father, an adherent of a Barbizon school, whose painters took their inspiration in nature itself, enjoying the freedom of observation rather than following the Academic rules of the time. Participant of many of Paris artistic Salons, Cortès had been also awarded a prestigious Prix Antoine-Quinson.
Looking at Cortes’s oeuvre, one may immediately grasp his awareness and adherence of the Barbizons. Although set in urban landscapes, his paintings convey the same fine sensuality in the tratment of details such as the colour of the sky and leaves, shapes of trees, reflections on the ground and inviting electric lights.
In his iconic views of Paris of the beginning of the XX century, Èdouard Cortès carries over the wistful, sensitive and observative manner of Barbizons, combining it with a soft touch of Impressionism to create a Romantic vision, a souvenir from that time, an image of the city that has been rapidly changing and growing.
However, his views of Paris of the first quarter of the century bear as well a sentimental meaning, as the artist had admitted he had wished to stop history before the Second World War. It is a part of a famous European nostalgia for prosperity and peace of La Belle Époque, and Cortes prolongs this period up to the end of 1930s, a sort of a lost paradise. His idealisation of the period, on the other hand, does not bear a character of aristocratic splendour and prosperuity, Cortes is rather keen in depicting ordinary everyday life of the city and its crowd.
Returning to the sombre and nostalgic visions of Parisian life, Cortes’s Porte Saint Denis is an authentic glimpse into the essence of the city, governed by changes of the inter-war period.
As the culmination of his career played out throughout the 1930s, the artist revisited the scene numerous times. Having observed the landscape’s seasonal changes, Cortes renders the image as a hazy sepia, optically merging its subjects with the overcast sky. The composition’s interplay of earthy tones is diffused by luminous hues of warm light emitted throughout the pictorial space.
While Cortes is bold with his brushstroke, he chooses to use deep, amber yellows, contrasting his visible application with their atmospheric, autumnal softness. This subtle and nuanced approach to the intricacies of Parisian life is hardly surprising; the artist was now aware of his consolidated status as an observer and painter of Parisian life, famously effortless in capturing the essence of its social fabric.
His virtuosic interpretation of the aesthetics within the European metropolis provoked particular interest among art collectors in North America, as the ambience so synonymous with his miniature compositions contrasted the very modernist and cosmopolitan canons relevant to mid-20th century New York.
Private collection, UK
Private collection, Switzerland