La Muse du Peintre is Martin’s early masterpiece. He exhibited it twice at the Salon des Artistes Français, first in 1902 and again in 1910. Images of the muse are present throughout art history, either acting as an artist’s personal inspiration or as a mythical figure. Martin’s beautiful muse elegantly steps forth from a bed of flowers into the artist’s studio, so joining together these two concepts. The artist places himself in the work through the depiction of the canvas suggesting how this woman is his artistic inspiration.
Emblems were a crucial part of Symbolist painting and Martin embraces this in his treatment of the figure, flowers and lyre. The white flowers beneath the muse’s feet equate purity while the thistles connote salvation and magic. Known in Greek mythology to be created by Hermes and gifted to Apollo, the lyre represents moderation and equilibrium. Fittingly, the nine mythological muses were often presented with lyres in ancient Greek art.
Martin first exhibited paintings of muses in his third Salon participation of 1883. Entitled the Nuit de Mai, Martin followed this with the Nuit d’Octobre in the 1888 Salon. The muse with the lyre became a recurring theme in his work, appearing in the famed murals for the Hôtel de ville, Paris and Sérénité now in Musée de Nantes. In 1900 Léonce Bénédite wrote an essay dedicated to this theme in Martin’s paintings. He asserted how Martin revitalised traditional images of the muse and lyre through an ‘obscure mystery’ and drew parallels between Martin’s and Puvis de Chavannes’ works.
Daniel B. Grossman, Inc., New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above, February 17, 1984
Paris, Salon des Artistes Francais, 1902, no.1136
Paris, Salon des Artistes Francais, 1910, no.158
Rotterdam, Museum Boymans‐ Beningen, November 14, 1975 ‐ January 11, 1976, Le Symbolism en Europe; Brussels, Musées Royaux des Beaux‐ Arts de Belgique, January - March 1976; Baden-Baden, Staatliche Kunsthalle, March - May 1976; Paris, Galeries National de Grand Palais, May 22 ‐ July 19, 1976
E. Aman‐ Jean, La Peinture au Salon, Art et Decoration, 1902, illus p.52
L. Benedite, La Lyre et les Muses par Henri Martin, Art et Decoration, 1900, pp.1‐ 10: essay on Martin’s imagery
R. Bouyer, Les Salons de 1902, Revue de l’art et modern, 1902, illus p.392
R. de Fontaines, Henri Martin, From Paris, July 1910, p.29