Private Collection (since circa 1988)
Sale New York (Sotheby's) 23 October 2008, Lot 119
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Emile Claus toiled as a baker's apprentice, railway inspector and linen merchant before his father gave him permission to study fine art at the Antwerp Academy in 1869. By 1883 Claus had settled at Zonneschijn (Sunshine), his home in Astene on the banks of the river de Leie (la Lys), having broken away from the repressive training of the Antwerp Academy. Five years later, Claus took a studio in Paris and began to exhibit at the Salon. It was only after 1890, following many winters spent in Paris, and with the encouragement of Henri Le Sidaner, that Claus liberated himself from the tighter technique of Naturalist painters such as Jules Bastien-Lepage, and began to experiment with an impressionistic brushstroke and new ways of capturing light. The artist did not limit himself to registering the effects of light and color, and modified his impressions according to the sentiment that inspired him. Claus avoided modernist rhetoric and had only passing interest in trends of such as Pointillism and Fauvism. Rather Claus' work helped define a new school of art all of its own---Luminism, for the proponents of Impressionism in Belgium.
The present work holds all the best aspects of Claus' luminist technique: the bold, tactile brushwork, juxtapositions of compressed and open space, and saturated pigments of sun-soaked hot red flower buds or cool green patches of verdant shade in this large composition. These elements hearken back to such early influences as Claude Monet and Le Sidaner, while also revealing Claus' personal vision of nature. Indeed the bushes heavy with flowers, the long blades of grass, and the wispy clouds in the sky are kinetic with movement and growth. Such a sense of energy in the composition was a reflection of the artist's own personality, as a contemporary writer noted; Claus seemed to vibrate "with a fine, subtle nervousness; everything about him converges on a smiling, delicate, sensual charm, which flows form him as if magnetism" (as quoted in P. & V. Berko, Dictionary of Belgian painters born between 1750 & 1875, Brussels, 1981, p. 101). The artist imbues the present work with a joy in his surroundings, an appreciation of both the ambience and more tangible, mundane elements of his subject.
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