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Lot 321. Mela Muter (Maria Melania Mutermilch) Warsaw 1876 – 1967 Paris. Landschaft Südfrankreich. Circa 1914/1915. Oil on canvas. 77 x 83 cm. Framed. Signed ‘Muter’ in dark blue lower right. – With craquelure, two minor retouches in the left centre and a backed, short, inconspicuous cut in the lower corner. On a black-and-white photograph in the archive of the Galerie Bargera, titled ‘pejzaz z sosnami’ (landscape with pine trees), probably by Mela Muter, in Polish verso. Provenance: From the estate of the artist; Galerie Bargera, Cologne; Private collection, Israel. Exhibitions: Paris 1966 (Jean-Claude Bellier), Mela Muter, cat. no. 15 (“Paysage, Les Pins”), with full-page illus. Estimate €60.000 – €80.000. Lempertz. 11/29/19. Sold 60,000 euro (hammer)
Born into a wealthy family with an interest in art, Mela Melania Klingsland – who later married the art critic Michal Mutermilch – first studied in Warsaw and then, from 1901, in Paris. Impressed by the works of the School of Pont Aven, by Cézanne and van Gogh, Mela Muter (the abbreviated name she would soon use to refer to herself) quickly found a style of her own and was extremely successful, particularly as a portrait painter. Her first solo exhibition would already be held in Warsaw in 1902, and it was followed by regular exhibitions in the salons of Paris. In 1911 the gallerist Josep Dalmau invited the painter – by then a member of the Salon d’Automne – to Barcelona; further exhibitions in the Basque country followed and, in 1914, Mela Muter spent several months in nearby Girona. That is where, according to her own account, she painted her first proper landscapes (Muter Souvenirs, in: exhib. cat. Mela Muter. De París a Girona. I els artistes polonesos a Catalunya, Museu d’Art de Girona 2019, p. 234). The coastal landscape offered here may also have been created on this occasion – perhaps in Begur, one of the seaside villages closest to the medieval town of Girona.
In the southern saturation of the shades of ochre, red and pink in complementary contrast with the dark to violet blue and the dark, shadow-casting green, this stony stretch of coast is characterised by its little pine or, more precisely, stone pine forest. Seen from the viewers’ high vantage point in a plunging perspective, the view curves round above the Mediterranean bay and ends in a white sailing boat just below the horizon line. The forceful brushstroke and strong palette visualise the impression of the landscape and appeal to viewers’ sense of smell and touch.