Lot 137
  • 137

HENRI LE SIDANER | Canal avec maison blanche, Harfleur

150,000 - 200,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Henri Le Sidaner
  • Canal avec maison blanche, Harfleur
  • signed Le Sidaner (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 60 by 73cm., 23 5/8 by 28 3/4 in.
  • Painted in 1915.


Sale: Hôtel des Ventes, Versailles, lot 45
Walter Klinkhoff Gallery, Montreal
Acquired from the above by the present owner in the 1970s


Yann Farinaux-Le Sidaner, Le Sidaner, l'œuvre peint et gravé, Paris, 1989, no. 341, illustrated p. 142

Catalogue Note

Glowing with a luminous crepuscular light, Canal avec maison blanche, Harfleur is a superb example of Henri le Sidaner’s ability to distil the effects of light and atmosphere on canvas. Depicting the centre of Harfleur - a town in Normandy - at twilight, the present work was painted in 1915, when Le Sidaner was at the peak of his creative powers.  A symphony of quiet colours and gentle tonalities, the eye is inexorably drawn towards the glowing lights above the bridge, which imbues the scene with a sense of welcoming warmth whilst serving as a masterful focal point for the composition.

The depiction of northern European cities at twilight was a significant subject within the work of early twentieth century artists who were closely connected to the Symbolist movement, such as Fernand Khnopff and Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer as well as Le Sidaner. Their interest in the theme was encouraged by the publication of Georges Rodenbach’s celebrated novel Bruges-la-Morte in 1892: considered the ultimate Symbolist novel, the book focusses on the concept of the city as a relic of the past, illustrated through a nostalgic and somewhat melancholy language. However Le Sidaner’s iteration of the idea within the present work is gentler and far more benign, suggesting an atmosphere of meditative and tranquil calm.

The lack of figures is a continual theme in the work of Le Sidaner, who preferred to suggest presence through absence. There is a timeless, almost other-worldly, quality to the artist’s quiet cityscapes, a quality that the critic Camille Mauclair noted: ‘It is l’heure de Le Sidaner, the time when he is most profoundly himself [...] The colours become spiritual as they resist the falling darkness to which they will ultimately succumb.  The ordinary is transformed into magic by the miracle of the moment and of the silence.  Le Sidaner is able to depict the sweetness of life transfigured by love and made visible through physical objects’ (Camille Mauclair, Henri Le Sidaner, Paris, 1928, p. 252).