James Trollope, author of Rudolph Ihlee: The Road to Collioure, reflects on the journey that led to the writing of this book, which uncovers Ihlee's artistic trail in the South of France and Spain in the lead up to the Spanish Civil War and the German occupation of France.
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My adventure began at an auction in Stowmarket, Suffolk on December 3, 2019 when I bid successfully for a small painting called Petites Maisons, Collioure. An English winter had made me pine for my tiny property in the south of France and the picture, by Rudolph Ihlee, presented a sun-filled vision of what I was missing.
My house is about half an hour from Collioure, the birthplace of Fauvism and home to Rudolph Ihlee (1883-1968) between the two World Wars. I knew very little about the artist and was intrigued to find out more. After several false starts, I made contact with one of Ihlee’s heirs thanks to the Artists’ Collecting Society. Meanwhile, delighted with my first Ihlee painting, I acquired a second, The Bridge at Hendaye, from dealer and art historian Grant Waters.
Grant had a copy of a list Ihlee made of all his works from 1922 to 1936 the original of which is in the Hunterian in Glasgow. These were Ihlee’s most productive years and the list revealed his artistic trail through places I knew well from my own time in the same area of France.
During the course of several conversations, Ihlee’s heir let drop that he had heard of someone who had a large collection of his work. That collector, who had known the artist well, turned out to have another important asset. He was the owner of the publishing house Lund Humphries! Having written three previous monographs about artists, Nigel Farrow asked me if I’d like to write a fourth. I couldn’t have wished for a better lockdown challenge.
Ihlee had encouraged Charles Rennie Mackintosh to join him in France and letters, by ‘Toshie’, as he was known to his friends, give a flavour of their exile in French Catalonia. Joseph Sharples, a curator at the Hunterian in Glasgow, where the letters are held, was generous in his help. The gallery’s Fort Precincts, Collioure is one of 70 illustrations in the book (58 in colour).
I am also indebted to Irving Grose who staged a retrospective of Ihlee’s work in 1978 when he ran the Belgrave Gallery. Irving not only gave me access to some unpublished research but found some beautiful transparencies of Ihlee’s Brittany paintings including Gosses below.
I also tracked down, in Ireland, a grandson of one of Ihlee’s cousins who owned several works including the Jetty, Collioure:
When I was finally able to return my house in France, I met Claire Muchir, the Director of the Museum of Modern Art in Collioure whose staff had helped me identify many of Ihlee’s images. Some of them will go on display at the gallery in the summer in a show devoted to non French artists inspired by the fishing port in the 1920s and 30s. Thus his work will be exhibited to a new audience a hundred years after his arrival in Collioure. I hope readers will enjoy finding out why he spent so long there and what happened before and after the happiest time of his life.
~ James Trollope 2022
You can pre-order your copy of Rudolph Ihlee: The Road to Collioure HERE. It will be released on 5th May 2022.
Watch two short video trailers: