Catalogue entry

T03328 LA ROUTE DE STE. LIVRADE 1932

Inscribed ‘AY. GROSS/32’ bottom left, and ‘Anthony GROSS La Route de Ste. LIVRADE/(Villeneuve-s.LOT)/1932’ on back of top member of stretcher
Oil on canvas, 19 1/2 × 25 3/8 (49.5 × 64.4)
Presented by the artist 1981

The artist wrote (letter, 1 July 1982) ‘The Route de Ste Livrade is the main road from Villeneuve - down the valley. St Livrade is the first little town about 3 miles away. It was in the old days before traffic reached its [present] proportions! and before every inhabitant of Villeneuve built themselves a villa along it and other such exits - a splendid evening walk or bicycle ride!’

After Anthony Gross moved to Paris from Brive-la-Gaillarde late in 1929 (see entry on T03318), he began painting the industrial suburbs of Paris known as ‘The Zone’, in crowded and animated figure scenes showing workers and their families in their daily surroundings. In March 1930 he married the painter Daisy Florenty and began spending summers with her family in Villeneuve-sur-Lot.

'Their shop was in the main shopping street. Hence other etchings and watercolours of shops in the little market town’ (ibid.). In the Tate's picture the walking figure is Daisy Gross and the bicyclist her niece Huguette. Gross used different palettes for the Zone pictures, which were dark, and for the Villeneuve pictures of which the bright colour and brilliant greens reflected the radiant country light and scene.

In Paris in 1933, Gross made an etching based on the Tate's painting and with the same title. No.92 in the catalogue of his prints, it is in an edition of 40, the plate size is 8 × 11 inches and it is reproduced in Graham Reynolds, The Etchings of Anthony Gross, Victoria and Albert Museum, n.d. [1968], plate 7. The overall design of painting and etching is closely similar (though reversed), but whereas the painting includes more detail in the middle and far distance the etching is much more detailed in the foreground. There are no insects in the painting but at least ten in the foreground of the etching. The glass and knife at bottom right were included not to denote a picnic but because the French words for them (‘coupe’ and ‘couteau’) appeared on the same page of the dictionary as the French name of one of the insects depicted (‘le cousin’, the daddy long legs).

Two paintings done in the same period relate closely to ‘La Route de Ste. Livrade’. One, a view from the same road seen through the leaves of the plane trees which lined it, was bought by the Paris picture dealer van Leer. The other, still in the artist's possession, is ‘Girl Wiring a Vineyard’. ‘I was influenced by a Russian neighbour of mine, the painter Uri Annenkoff who worked a lot for the theatre. He introduced me to texture as an important element in pictures drawn or painted. The girl wiring was built upon the canvas in 3D!’ (letter).

For a period in the late 1920s Gross had been helped by Lefebvre-Foinet's allowing him to take painting materials on credit. Picabia's girl friend then introduced him to van Leer who for a time bought one painting a month from him. ‘Then came the crisis and when I took a new batch of pictures in to van Leer, Mouradian [his partner] said to me “You know what they are doing with coffee in Brazil”. I said “Yes, burning it”. He said “that's it, we will not recover from ‘la crise’ until every painter, every dealer has burnt all the pictures and we can start again”’ (memoir). Shortly after this Gross began to work in films. ‘When I decided to help Hector Hoppin in the cartoon films, I decided to drop oil painting (Alas to my cost!) [but to] keep on etching and drawing. So hence the hiatus in painting from period La Route de Ste Livrade until 1949 when I started painting seriously again’ (letter).

However the subject matter of the paintings led directly into Gross's films. In particular, ‘La Route de Ste Livrade’ is very closely connected with the film “La Joie de Vivre”, started about the [same] time or shortly after painting it. I was also painting pictures of the Zone in Paris. The two subject matters were rolled into one in the film’ (letter). ‘La Joie de Vivre’ follows two girls and their encounters on a bicycle ride which takes in the Zone and the countryside. ‘Place du Théâtre, Brive-la-Gaillarde’ and ‘La Route de Ste. Livrade’ both feature girls with bicycles, as does the Christmas card etching ‘The Well’ 1933 (plate size 3 1/8 × 4 1/8in), which is particularly close in feeling to the film. ‘I have always loved bicycles, girls on bicycles and boys on bikes. At that time in 1927 it was the normal way for farmers and families to go anywhere - saved getting out the pony and trap!’ (ibid). The image of Huguette on the bicycle in ‘La Route de Ste. Livrade’ was one of the starting points of ‘La Joie de Vivre’; another, even more specific, was a photograph of two American film stars in the film magazine Ciné-Monde.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1980-82: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1984