Hélène, Villa Magdalena, Pornic, At the time of the bath, 1929
Oil on canvas, H. 1.50 m; W. 1.50 m
Provenance: Private collection, France.
« Le Salon de 1929 », L’Illustration, 11 mai 1929, n° 4497, repr.
Born in 1871 in a diplomats’ family, Raoul du Gardier always had two passions which would become inseparable: painting and the sea. He entered the Ecole des Beaux-Arts of Paris where he was trained by Théobald Chartran, Elie Delaunay, Albert Maignan and Gustave Moreau. Affected by tuberculosis, he should go to regions of more clement climate and so he spent periods of time in the vineyards owned by his family in Ameur el Aïn, Algeria. He then made friends with the Belgian artist Henri Evenepoel and together they visited Chercher and Tipasa.
In 1900 he became member of the Société des Artistes Français and then exhibited regularly to the Salon, mostly works inspired by his stays in Algeria or society activities of sea resorts, like Femme en blanc sur la plage bought by the State in 1904 for the musée du Luxembourg today in the musée Petiet in Limoux.
During the 1920s, he visited regularly his brother Pierre, consul general in Suez then in the Mauritius, Luxor, Carnac, Suez, Madagascar, Comoros and Reunion Island. The discovery of these exotic parts of the country inspired him works full of oriental poetry. His paintings were exhibited at the Société Coloniale des Artistes Français. They reveal his deep concern of light and its reflections on the water. All his paintings seem to bath in a very special, colourful light.
On April 24th, 1923 du Gardier was entitled official painter of the French Navy. During the winter of 1929-1930, he embarked aboard General Duquesne for a journey of three months and visited the East and Indian Ocean, a revelation which would mark his work till the end of his life.
Raoul du Gardier also realized works of elegant themes and sophisticated leisure activities. It is in particular in this spirit very “sport-chic” that he participated in the decoration of the passenger ship Normandy. This seduction of the glance, this elegance of outline and this vibrating touch also are also present in his paintings inspired by the peace of mind of his family retreat in Brittany.
The present picture shows a girl, Hélène, with cheerful eyes seated on a balustrade, a motive which the artist had already used for his Matinée d’été and Au soleil.