This expressionist drawing of cacti in Provence is striking in its sobriety, clarity and vigour - a bit like the arrire pays, the hinterland behind the Cote d'Azur coast, itself.
When I acquired it, I was not surprised to learn that our original drawing had been used to adorn an exhibition poster of a one man show of the artist, Leon Sabatier, at the Galerie du Portail.
Lon Sabatier (1891-1965) was an extraordinary man, whose story is worth recounting. Born into a poor family in Toulon, the port city on the mediterranean coast, he was orphaned at the age of three, and left school aged 13.
Apprenticed as a painter decorator to his older sister's husband, an amateur artist in his free time, Leon developed a passion and hunger for art which led him to attend night school - and eventually to obtain a scholarship at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he studied with the masters Luc-Olivier Merson (by whom we have a drawing for sale!) et Raphal Collin.
Lon Sabatier settled in Montparnasse, the epicentre of modern art, where he mixed with Modigliani, Derain, Kisling and others. As a young anarchist and pacifist Sabatier demonstrated against the war, but was nonetheless drafted. Upon his return to civilian life, he recites poetry in restaurants to survive. He marries, aged 29, and is widowed three years later.
But from 1923 he exhibits at the Salon des Indpendants, and then in 1925 at the Galerie Martin in Paris, the in Lyons, at the Galerie Saint Pierre. Little by little, success manifests itself. Leon Sabatier returns to Toulon, where he is named professor at the academy of Fine Arts.
Active in the rsistance during WW2, his home is requisitioned. He returns to Paris after the war, exhibiting widely, both in the capital and in the South of France until his death. His last words to his second wife were: "I painted like an honest man - and if you can't paint any longer, it is time to go".
The poignant drawing by Léon Sabatier presented here is signed at the lower left and measures 30 x 20 cm at sight. The overall framed size in its original frame is 45,5 x 35,5 cm.
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