Vorhor, The Green Wave

 
Artist
Creation date
Materials
egg tempera on canvas
Mark Descriptions
atelier monogram on reverse of canvas
Dimensions
39 3/8 x 28 3/8 in. 46 x 35 1/2 in. (framed)
Credit line
Gift of the Alliance of the Indianapolis Museum of Art
Accession number
1984.202
Collection
Not Currently On View

Influenced by Gauguin, Lacombe espoused the artist's right to interpret nature according to his own imagination. During the mid-1890s he painted the steep cliffs of Vorhor in Brittany, suggesting human forms amid the craggy rocks. He also exaggerated nature's colors, choosing vivid tints of turquoise, mauve, and gold.

From Japanese prints Lacombe borrowed the flattened perspective and stylized treatment of the breaking waves. Drawn into the narrow gap where the sea pounds the shore, the viewer senses an air of foreboding and a mystical element that binds Lacombe to the Symbolist movement.

By descent to the artist’s daughter, Sylvie Mora-Lacombe; {1} (Georges Martin du Nord, Paris); {2} purchased by the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 1984 (84.202).
{1} As noted in Joëlle Ansieau, Georges Lacombe 1868-1916: catalogue raisonné, Paris 1998, cat. no. 41 (ill). Ansieau had sustained contact over many years with the artist’s two daughters: Sylvie [born 1898] and Nigelle [born 1900].
{2} See correspondence from the dealers Georges and Anne Martin du Nord, Paris, from 1984 and 1985 in IMA Historical File (84.202).
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Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

With its powerful imagery, striking color scheme, and bold patterns, Vorhor, The Green Wave is a vivid expression of a pervasive shift in attitude experienced by many progressive painters in late 19th-century France. The artist's right to reinterpret-rather than imitate-nature became a guiding principle of Paul Gauguin and his followers. When Georges Lacombe encountered them in 1892, he rapidly adopted their independent outlook and decorative impulse.

The inspiration for this image is a specific site amidst the steep cliffs of Vorhor, on the dramatic Brittany shore north of Pont-Aven. Fascinated by the sea, the young artist from Versailles summered in the region, and from 1893 to 1897 he produced a series of coastal views that are his most innovative paintings. Lacombe was tempted to anthropomorphize the rocks, finding in their chiseled masses unusual shapes that resembled human forms. He also exaggerated his colors, choosing brilliant tints of turquoise, mauve, and gold. Familiar with Japanese prints, Lacombe borrowed their use of flattened perspective and the practice of treating waves as decorative patterns. Drawn into the narrow gap where the tides pound the shore, the viewer senses an air of foreboding, a mystical element that binds Lacombe to the larger artistic and literary movement known as Symbolism.

Twice a day, the inexhaustible source engraves,
Traces as if at will its magical patterns,
Its laces of scales and feathers of birds.

-Georges Lacombe, from "Symbole," 1909