A figure on the beach
Signed 'B. Olive' (lower right)
Oil on panel
10 x 12.3/4 in. (25.5 x 32.4 cm.)
Although relatively little-known outside France, Olive is one of Provence's most iconic painters and an emblematic figure of the French marine art movement.
The son of a wine merchant born in Marseille, Olive was encouraged to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in the same town under the guidance of Joanny Rave. After achieving first prize in 1871 as a student for live model drawing he painted many scenes of Marseilles and the surrounding seashore. He took on many commissions particularly in Paris to decorate frescoes, notably at the Cirque d'Hiver and at the Basilica of the Sacre Coeur. He exhibited repeatedly at the Salon. Today two paintings created for the golden room at Le Train Bleu can still be seen in the Paris Gard de Lyon train station. It is however for his coastal works that he is mainly associated today, showing great skill in capturing the movement of the sea and the heat of the landscape with confident fluid brushstrokes. This typical example beautifully depicts the dazzling shore in summer in the environs of Marseille and if you look hard enough you will spot the figure of a lady.
In 1930, aged 82, he was awarded the Léon Bonnat prize.
He was good friends with the painters Étienne Cornellier, Gustave Marius Jullien, Antoine Vollon, Robert Mols, Raymond Allègre and Théophile Décanis. He was supported by several patrons, among them General Malesherbes and Marie-Louis Gassier, the owner of Berger, a producer of pastis. In 1948, twelve years after his death, Marseille's Musée Cantini dedicated an exhibition to his centenary, displaying eighty-two of his paintings.