Sans Titre, 1957, by Maurice Estève, watercolour and charcoal on paper, 19¾in × 2ft 2in (50 × 64.5cm). On view at Stoppenbach & Delestre.

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Thirteen abstract watercolours produced from 1957-93 are at the centre of Stoppenbach & Delestre’s show on the French artist Maurice Estève (1904-2001).

It runs at the St James’s, London, gallery from May 26-June 30, and it is only the second show to focus on the artist ever to take place in the UK.

The exhibition coincides with a two-year renovation programme at the Musée Estève in Bourges, during which doors to the institution will be closed – making this show a prime opportunity to see some of the painter’s works in person.


Sans Titre, 1964, watercolour on paper, 9½ x 12in (24 × 31cm). On view at Stoppenbach & Delestre.

In some ways, Estève may be viewed as part of the ‘system’ of 20th century art history. He was openly inspired by the greats of previous generations such as Nicolas Poussin, Fouquet and Paul Cézanne.

He was not alone when he chose to work in abstraction and with colour, particularly in post-war France.

Others who pursued similar aesthetic lines include well-known names such as Roger Bissière (1886- 1984) and Gustave Singier (1909-84) just in France, while in the US Abstract Expressionism was taking the world by storm.


Sans Titre, 1974, watercolour on paper, 18½ × 14in (47 × 35.5cm). On view at Stoppenbach & Delestre.

In 1937 Estève participated in the decoration of the aviation and railway pavilions at the Paris Universal Exhibition with Robert and Sonia Delaunay. And in 1941, he landed an exclusive contract with the gallery Louis Carré, which allowed him to dedicate himself to his work.

However, he seems to have thought of himself as a highly individual worker. He was largely self-taught and tried hard to create a personal, organic visual language. Though he did exhibit his creations, he was somewhat averse to the process.

Own vision

According to Monique Prudhomme, the co-author of Maurice Estève catalogue raisonné who is collaborating with the gallery on the show, he was in some ways the quintessential artist.

“Being labelled as an abstract painter and a representative of the ’50s generation was unbearable for him”, she writes. “Estève preferred remarks that surprised him, did away with labels and encouraged himself to pursue his own vision, questioned by himself and always plagued by ‘lessons’ left behind by the work of Cézanne.”


Sans Titre, 1957, watercolour and charcoal on paper, 17 × 12½in (44 × 31.5cm). On view at Stoppenbach & Delestre.

Now he comes to a UK audience to attract newcomers or delight those already familiar with his pictures.

The works offered are from a single-owner collection. Along with the watercolours and other oneoff works, which are priced from £10,000-140,000, lithographs are available for £1000-3000 each.