Lot 313
  • 313

Emile Claus

100,000 - 150,000 GBP
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  • Emile Claus
  • bateaux a vapeur sur la tamise
  • signed and dated Emile Claus / London 16 lower left

  • oil on canvas
  • 92 by 92cm., 36¼ by 36¼in.


Estate of the artist; thence by descent to the present owner


Waregem, Kultuurcentrum de Schakel, Retrospektieve Emile Claus, 1985
Pontoise, Musée Tavet / Musée Pissarro, Éxposition Néo-Belge, 1990, no. 11
Oostend, Provinciaal Museum voor Moderne Kunst, Retrospektieve Emile Claus, 1997, no. 140, illustrated in the catalogue


This condition report has been provided by Hamish Dewar, Hamish Dewar Ltd. Fine Art Conservation, 14 Masons Yard, Duke Street, St James's, London SW1Y 6BU. Structural Condition The canvas is unlined and tensioned over a conventional stretcher. The canvas displays some slight undulations but overall is in good and stable condition. Paint surface There are no obvious defects to the paint layer. Under ultra-violet light there is no evidence of previous restoration. The varnish layer is moderately discoloured and features a slightly ingrained dirt layer and I would be confident that cleaning would result in a worthwhile improvement in the overall appearance. Summary The picture is therefore in good and stable condition but would benefit from cleaning and revarnishing.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

The present work is part of Claus' series Réverbérations sur la Tamise (Reverberations on the Thames) that the artist created between 1914-1919, during his sojourn in London (lot 311). Varied representations of familiar London monuments such as the Tower of London, Waterloo Bridge, Westminster Bridge and London Bridge all feature in Claus' London veduti of that period. From a small window on the fifth floor of Monbray House, at the corner of Norfolk Street between Charing Cross and Temple, Claus created atmospherically different scenes of the same view and composition. The present work lends itself easily to comparisons with Turner, Whistler and chiefly Monet's scenes of London such as Waterloo Bridge, temps gris (fig. 1), in both the subject and handling. The cosmopolitan, industrial bustle of early twentieth-century London is shown in soft, grey tones through loose, rapid brushstrokes in both works. In Bateaux à Vapeur sur la Tamise, however, Claus' resistance to purely describing the phenomena of light can be seen in the wider range of values and the definition of elements of the subject with line and detail. 'There where the world saw only fog, smoke, vapour and dust, Claus saw effects, apparitions and Sylphides of colour curving in the skies, phosphorescent naiads illuminating the floods' (Frédéric de Smet, 'Emile Claus', L'Art Belge, April 1921, p. 6). Capturing the juxtaposition of pure colour and subtle nuances, Claus imbues his oeuvre with a certain joy in his surroundings, an appreciative acknowledgment of both the ambience and more tangible and mundane elements of his subject. In his London views lay the enthusiasm of discovery, and the uprooted Belgian found unadulterated expression in his mastery of this single view from his London window.

Claus did not simply limit himself to registering the effects of light and colour, but would modified these impressions according to the environment he was describing. This was a visceral interpretation of Impressionism, in which light occupied its own tangible seat of importance, without excluding detail or denying an organic union with form. Claus however avoided modernist rhetoric and anything more than passing interest in trends such as Pointillism and Fauvism. He expressed his surroundings and the everyday life that spoke so fluently to him with a sense of realism and the 'matérialité de la représentation' that defined his work. The representational simplicity and purity, as well as the sensitivity to ambience and poetic force, were hallmarks of the Belgian realist-impressionist.


FIG. 1, Claude Monet, Waterloo Bridge, temps gris, 1903 Ordrupgaardsamlingen, Copenhagen