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Henri-Joseph Harpignies, Olive Trees at Menton

Key facts
Full title Olive Trees at Menton
Artist Henri-Joseph Harpignies
Artist dates 1819 - 1916
Date made 1907
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 99.7 × 81.3 cm
Inscription summary Signed; Dated
Acquisition credit Presented by H. Arthur Robinson to the Tate Gallery in memory of R.H. Tripp, 1923; transferred, 1956
Inventory number NG3808
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Olive Trees at Menton
Henri-Joseph Harpignies

Two tall, slender olive trees stand on the rough ground at the top of a hill overlooking the sea. Their trunks are crooked and gnarled, the brittle bark catching the sun and glinting here and there.

This is Menton on the French Côte d‘Azure. It was a fashionable resort in Harpignies’ time, but he has chosen to ignore the villas and restaurants among coloured umbrellas and palm trees to show us the tougher side of the Mediterranean, where plants and people had more of a struggle to live than down at the coast.

Harpignies harked back to the idyllic landscapes of Claude, painted nearly three centuries before, but without characters from Greek or Roman myth. He depicted what he saw around him, as other modern painters did, but with a smoother, more classical technique – he was of his day, but with a firm link to the past.

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