Lot 143
  • 143

Georges Morren

400,000 - 600,000 USD
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  • Georges Morren
  • À l'harmonie (Jardin public)
  • Signed G. Morren and inscribed Anvers (on the stretcher)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 19 5/8 by 39 3/8 in.
  • 49.8 by 100.1 cm


Galerie Willy D'Huysser, Brussels
Private Collection, Belgium
Galerie M. Keitelmann, Brussels
Arthur G. Altschul, New York
Thence by descent


Antwerp, Ancien musée de peintures, L'Association pour l'art, 1892, no. 4, illustrated in the catalogue
Paris, Musée d'Orsay, Le Neo-impressionisme de Seurat à Paul Klee, 2005, no. 238, illustrated in color in the catalogue


"L'Art jeune à Anvers" in L'Impartial de Gand, Ghent, May 31, 1892, n.p.
"Petite chronique" in L'Art moderne, Brussels, July 10, 1892, p. 215
"George Morren" in L'Art moderne, Brussels, December 16, 1894, p. 399
Marie-Jean Chartrain-Hebbelinck, "George Morren" in Biographie nationale, Brussels, 1979, vol. 41, t.XIII, fasc. I, collection 572, n.p.
Diane Kelder, Legacy of Impressionism, New York, 1986, illustrated in color n.p. 
Tony Calabrese, George Morren 1868-1941, Monographie générale suivie du catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre, Brussels, 2000, no. 7, illustrated p. 210 & in color pp. 28-29 & on the cover (with incorrect measurements)


This work is in very good condition. The canvas is strip lined. The surface is clean with beautifully preserved texture. The canvas is very slightly undulating at lower right corner. Under UV light: there is a 2 inch area of restoration which corresponds to a patch on the reverse in the bench at center right. Otherwise, fine.
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.

Catalogue Note

The dazzling À l'harmonie by the Belgian Georges Morren is perhaps the most important Neo-Impressionist canvas of the artist's oeuvre. Having trained briefly as a painter in his native Antwerp, Morren moved to Paris in the late 1880s where he first encountered the divisionist technique of painting that he would soon adapt. By 1891, his work exemplified the rich possibilities of this innovative method which is characterized by the utilization of small scale, tightly painted dots of saturated colors. Because he was independently wealthy and was not obliged to sell his work, Morren never gained the prominence of his compatriot Neo-Impressionists. Nevertheless, Morren participated in groundbreaking exhibitions with Theo van Rysselberghe, Paul Signac and Georges Seurat, and his compositions of the 1890s certainly rival those of his better-known colleagues. The present work is an emblematic Impressionist depiction of modern leisure activities. Beyond their inherent beauty, works like À l’harmonie serve as windows into the complexities of the rapidly changing world in which they depict. Reminiscent of George Seurat’s Un Dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte (see fig. 1), the figures in À l'harmonie appear totally motionless despite their active engagement in their respective activities. Transfixed, it is almost as if they are sculptures deliberately placed across the canvas. Robert L. Herbert’s description of Un Dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte may similarly be applied to À l’harmonie: both artists “treated the park as a stage across which he could position a variety of persons strolling or at rest. From these self-administered auditions…[they] eventually selected the performer of [the] Sunday ritual, combining the functions of both playwright and director…[the paintings] should be seen as an artifice devoted to a social institution in a contrived setting: parks are not ‘nature,’ but rather artificial stages for human action” (quoted in Seurat and the Making of La Grande Jatte (exhibition catalogue), Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 2004, p. 96).

It is through his adept use of color that Morren brings À l’harmonie to life, employing the divisionist technique to create a scene of shimmering light and color. Color theory was first explored in the 1839 publication Principles of Harmony and Contrast of Colors by Michel-Eugène Chevreul, in which he found that colors change perceptually in tone and composition when seen simultaneously based on the placement and proximity of their contrast. Divisionism thence drew upon these studies by separating different colors into isolated brushstrokes of pure pigment, a technique that ultimately revolutionized the artist’s ability to bring light and brightness to a scene.

Morren draws from Impressionist masterpieces such as Monet’s Jardin à Sainte-Adresse (see fig. 2), employing Monet’s pioneering explorations into divisionist technique and Seurat’s Pointillist light innovations through the direct juxtaposition of color. À l’harmonie builds upon these advances through further explorations into color and how it interacts. Ultimately creating a piece that appears to be fully illuminated with glittering light, it is almost as if it were backlit or flecked with small pieces of gold. By strategically placing varying sizes of yellow dabs across green, black, white and red backgrounds, Morren creates a pulsating sensation across the entire canvas.  

These innovations in light and color, also explored by Morren’s contemporaries, came to influence later generations of artists such as Gustav Klimt in works like Bauerngarten (Blumengarten) (see fig. 3). An ornate garden scene created through the use of varying sizes of brightly colored circular strokes would later transform gold leaf. These chromatic and stylistic techniques pioneered by Morren were hugely important to later generations of artists who were able to imbue their output with the personality of their subjects and the colorful vibrancy of modernity.