108
108

PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION

Léon de Smet
ROZE HARMONIE
JUMP TO LOT
108

PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION

Léon de Smet
ROZE HARMONIE
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale

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Léon de Smet
1881-1966
ROZE HARMONIE
signed Leon de Smet and dated 1912 (lower right)
oil on canvas 
141.7 by 136.5cm., 55 3/4 by 53 3/4 in.
Painted in 1912.
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The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by Piet Boyens.

Provenance

Family of the artist
Luc de Booser, Knokke (acquired from the above)
Acquired from the above by the present owner by 1990

Exhibited

Deurle, Museum Léon de Smet, Retrospective, 1976, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Deurle, Museum Léon de Smet, Tentoonstelling Léon De Smet 1881-1981, 1981, no. 22
Deurle, Museum Léon de Smet; Deurle, Museum Dhont-Dhaenens, Léon de Smet, 1986, no. 26, illustrated in colour in the catalogue and on the front cover
Deinze, Museum van Deinze en de Leiestreek, Een zeldzame weelde: De kunstenaars van Sint-Martens-Latem 1900 - 1930, 2001, no. 170, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Himeji City, Himeji City Museum of Art (& travelling in Japan), Images of a beautiful Belgian village, 2010, no. 49, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Literature

Piet Boyens, Sint-Martens-Latem, kunstenaarsdorp in Vlaanderen, Tielt, 1992, mentioned p. 367
Piet Boyens, Flemish Art - Symbolism to Expressionism, Tielt, 1994, illustrated pp. 366-68
Piet Boyens & Hans Bosschaert, Léon de Smet, Tielt, 1994, n.n., illustrated in colour p. 85
Piet Boyens, Les artistes de Laethem-Saint-Martin/Kunst van Latem en de Leiestreek, Gent-Amsterdam, 2001, mentioned p. 33

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1912, Roze Harmonie is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful works of Leon de Smet’s entire œuvre.  It is exemplary of the artist’s celebrated Pointilliste technique, whereby the surface is articulated by the most delicate and discreet applications of paint. The brushstrokes are handled with the utmost sensitivity, forming a rich patchwork of paint and testifying to Leon de Smet’s technical mastery. For all of the indisputable technical virtuosity of the work, Léon de Smet has lost none of the vibrancy and spontaneity of the composition: Roze Harmonie is at once spirited and subtle, ambitious and intimate. 

This depiction of the daily life of the leisured middle classes, specifically of women, was a major subject matter for de Smet, and these women were often depicted in his celebrated richly decorated interiors. At once imposing and intimate, Roze Harmonie is a remarkable example of this key Impressionist theme: that of woman depicted in a domestic setting with the viewer occupying the role of voyeur. The present work is a wonderfully evocative scene, the delightful depiction of the pink dress, together with the sumptuous bed cover and lace of the tablecloth, are all reflective of the figure's femininity and grace. The woman is lost in the depths of slumber, an escapism that is echoed by the richly decorative fabrics that surround her. Her dress has fallen down over her shoulders to reveal the pinky flesh of her heaving bosom, which is depicted with the same glorious attention as the sumptuous fabrics of her environment. Her relaxed, collapsed pose is one of unaffected and private abandon and this lends the work a wonderfully intimate and natural air. The palette is one of exceptional subtlety and the nuanced range of pale pinks, whites and yellows perfectly suit this feminine imagery as well as de Smet’s masterful depiction of light. The sunlight beams in from an invisible window behind so that the whole scene is cast in a reassuring glow and indeed the viewer can almost feel the warmth of the sun on the woman’s ankles. 

The sleeping woman is a subject that fascinated not only the Impressionists, but many other great masters of the twentieth century, perhaps most famously Pablo Picasso: it is woman in her most transported, intangible, and mysterious state, in other words, at her most desirable. This luxuriously decorated room that the woman in Roze Harmonie inhabits invites comparison with the sumptuous settings employed by other Impressionists such as Édouard Vuillard, and the two artists also share a fascination in the private domestic moment as a worthy artistic theme. Of course this voyeurism was also famously explored by Edgar Degas and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, in many different settings but most effectively in their explorations of the nude in her bathroom. Picasso’s numerous depictions of sleeping women are among his most famous and most loved works, especially those soft depictions of his young lover Marie-Thérèse from the 1930s. The tradition of the reclining figure is a very old one in the history of art, and de Smet was not the only modern artist to adapt and develop the genre to suit his own artistic inclinations. Roze Harmonie avoids any of the detachment of the paid model: the sense of intimacy suggests this is probably his lover and the resulting sense of possession is undeniable.

Quite apart from the exquisite beauty of the image itself, Roze Harmonie is also rich in both textural and art historical references: the ornamental surface nods to the shimmering canvasses of Klimt, and the depiction of the sleeping woman acknowledges the Impressionist movement’s fascination with the depiction of the intimacy of a fleeting, domestic moment. The present work is a wonderfully sumptuous and evocative image: de Smet here creates a dreamlike atmosphere where the viewer feels privileged to be witness, for just a moment, to a private world.

Léon de Smet is one the great Belgian artists of the twentieth century and a key figure in the second wave of the L'École de Laethem-Saint-Martin, a group of multi-generational artists who assembled  from the end of the 19th century in the village of Saint-Martens-Latem, south of Ghent in Belgium. There was no real stylistic unity between the second wave group of Latem artists, as the various members experimented with different avant-garde styles and techniques, including Impressionism, Symbolism, Pointillism, Luminism, Fauvism, Neo-Impressionism, Expressionism and Surrealism. Already in 1911 (and just a year before the present masterpiece was painted), de Smet's friend, the critic André de Ridder, observed the skill of the artist: ‘Of the painters in Latem, Léon de Smet is without doubt the most self-certain; he hesitates less than the rest and can address a subject with unparalleled candour. Of the artists there, he is the most mature and most skilful’. During de Smet's sojourn in this artist’s colony from 1906 until 1913, the Neo-Impressionistic handling, of which the present work is an excellent example, gained importance in his œuvre, in parallel to the work of his peer there, Théo van Rysselberghe.

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