Lot 412
  • 412


300,000 - 400,000 EUR
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  • Gustave de Smet
  • Les Amants
  • signed Gust. De Smet (lower right)
  • oil on canvas
  • 133 x 115 cm; 52 3/8 x 45 1/4  in.
  • Painted in 1931.


Paul-Gustave & Norine Van Hecke, Brussels
Robert Giron, Brussels
Galerie Louis Manteau, Brussels
Fernand Graindorge, Liège
Tony Herbert, Kortrijk
Thence by descent to the present owner


Brussels, Galerie Georges Giroux, Collection Jean Pirard, 1936, no. 129
Venice, XXIIe Esposizione Internazionale Biennale di Venezia, 1940, no. 37
Lyons, Musée des Beaux-Arts, La Peinture Belge contemporaine, 1950, listed no. 32 np.
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Gustave de Smet (1877-1943), 1950, no. 55, illustrated np.
Maastricht, Bonnefanten-Museum, Werken van Gust. De Smet, 1951, listed no. 31
Groningen, Genootschap Pictura, Werken van Gust. De Smet, 1951, listed no. 31
Charleroi, Cercle Artistique, Salle de la Bourse, XXVIIe Salon, 1953, no. 44, illustrated np.
Lille, Palais des Beaux-Arts, L'expressionnisme flamand, 1953, listed no. 25
Eindhoven, Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Vlaamse Expressionisten : Constant Permeke, Frits Van den Berghe, Gust. De Smet, 1954-55, no. 48, illustrated np.
Sao Paulo, Museu de Arte Moderna, IIIe Biennal, 1955, no. 30 (probably)
Leuven, Universitair Kunstcentrum, Synthese van het Vlaams Expressionisme, 1955, no. 19 (probably)
Tournai, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Les Maîtres de l'Art Contemporain, 1956, no. 17, listed p. 8
Ghent, Museum voor Schone Kunsten; The Hague, Gemeentemuseum; Hasselt, Aan de Toren; Ostend, Kursaal; Groningen, Museum van Stad en Ommelanden; Charleroi, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Verzameling Tony Herbert, 1957, no. 11, np.
Ostend, Feestpaleis, Het Vlaams Expressionisme, 1961, no. 31, illustrated np.
Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Gustave De Smet Retrospectieve tentoonstelling, 1961, no. 180, cat. 59, illustrated p. 134
Luxemburg, Musée d'art et d'histoire, Collection Tony Herbert, 1963-64, no. 32, listed np.
Stuttgart, Württembergischer Kunstverein, Belgische Künstler von der Jahrhundertwende bis zur Gegenwart, 1963, no. 152, illustrated np.
Munich, Haus der Kunst, Europäischer Expressionismus, 1970, no. 164, illustrated np.
Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, L'Expressionnisme européen, no. 147, illustrated np.
Rome, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Expressionisti fiamminghi da Ensor a Permeke, 1977, no. 71, illustrated np.
Belgrade, Museum of Contemporary Art, 1977 
Eindhoven, Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Verzameling Tony Herbert, 1999, illustrated p. 38
Deurle, Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, The Tony Herbert Collection: Jean Brusselmans, Gust De Smet, Constant Permeke, Edgard Tytgat, Frits Van den Berghe, Rik Wouters, 2011, illustrated p. 76


Paul Haesaerts, 'Gustave De Smet of de Hartstocht voor de Stilte', in Beeldende Kunst, April 12, 1940, illustrated p. 4
P. G. Van Hecke & Emile Langui, Gust. De Smet. L'homme et son oeuvre, Brussels, 1945, no. 446, illustrated pl. 67 np.
Leo Van Puyvelde, Gustave De Smet, Antwerp, 1949, no. 15, illustrated np.
H. Casteur & A. Smeets, Inleiding tot de hedendaagse schilderkunst, Brugge, 1959, p. 121
Paul Haesaerts, Laethem-Saint-Martin, le village élu de l'art flamand,  Brussels, 1965, no. 190, illustrated p. 429


The canvas is not lined. It has not been possible to see the work entirely unframed. There are a few pinholes located along the edges. Examination under UV light reveals 8 dots of retouching located approximately 20 cm from the upper edge and 50 cm from the left edge. There is a small area of retouching (approx. 3 cm wide) located along the lower edge (20 cm from the extreme lower left corner). There are a few lines of craquelure in places only visible under close inspection. This work is in overall good condition.
"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

(LOTS 412-414) Tony Herbert (1902–1959) was one of the most important Belgians collectors of his time. After studying civil engineering at the University of Leuven, Tony Herbert settled in Kortrijk in 1928 as director of the spinning mill "Kortrijkse Katoenspinnerij". Since the late 1930s he focused on creating a collection of art, which only after World War II would be fully developed.

Tony Herbert concentrated first and foremost on the work of Gustave De Smet, and by 1946 he had assembled a collection of more than sixty paintings and drawings by this artist. Tony Herbert also acquired a number of works through Galerie Apollo in Brussels, among others by Edgard Tytgat, Jean Brusselmans and Rik Wouters. After World War II, Tony Herbert focused on the further expansion of the ensembles around the previous artists and Constant Permeke. For Herbert all these artists undoubtedly represented the force of the art. The originality of the work of these artists assured the continuity of the old masters tradition and was also the expression of a modern community.

The tributes that the Herbert couple organised in their Sporenhof home in honour of these artists from the collection are legendary. Herbert’s visionary manner was to defend the qualities of “his artists” through a broad network and thus to perpetuate the international recognition of their artistic importance.

In a catalogue text from 1963, Emile Langui paid homage to Tony Herbert: “That enthusing about Permeke was due to his strong character, but additionally, that his falling under the sweet spell of Tytgat and De Smet pointed towards a fine, hypersensitive trait in this energetic temperament.[…] And perhaps here we touch upon the very core of Tony Herbert’s mentality in relation to the art of his contemporaries: a subtle blend of order and instinct, of harmony and exuberance, of regularity and passion, of professionalism and fantasy.”

Tony Herbert died in October 1959, at the age of 57. Selected works from the Tony Herbert Collection were still viewable in 1962 and 1963 in Kortrijk (Stedelijk Museum), Almelo (The Waag), Amersfoort (Zonnehof) and Blankenberge (Kursaal). Part of the collection was finally secured for museum viewings. In October 1985 the municipal council from the city of Bruges approved the purchase of fifteen paintings and a sculpture from the Tony Herbert Collection. In May 2010, a second purchase of six paintings followed to enlarge the collection of the Bruges museums. The three works of Gustave De Smet, Constant Permeke and Rik Wouters are among the last ones in private collection.

"Gustave De Smet's contribution to Flemish art is certainly considerable; the most significant art movement of the interwar period in Belgium owes its existence in part to him. (...) While De Smet was among the artists to unleash the force of Expressionism, he was also the one who knew how to harness this force and use it to formulate the principles of an art form based on balance, wisdom and the classical style, which still simmers with a quiet, concentrated energy."
Paul Haesaerts, Laethem-Saint-Martin, Le village élu de l'art flamand, p. 298

Painted in 1931, De Minnaars (The Lovers) typifies a series of artworks depicting timeless couples, which Gustave de Smet created at the peak of his career.

An emblematic figure of European expressionism, Gustave de Smet started to paint at the beginning of the 20th century. His style radically evolved during World War I under the influence of various European artistic movements, like Fauvism, Cubism and Expressionism. From this time onward, he kept asserting his personal style, that of a synthetic pictorial language which involved silent and monumental characters. Some art historians called this highly recognizable artistic vocabulary “constructive expressionism”. “Expressionism” refers to his engagement with emotions which emerge from the surface of things. The term “constructive” indicates that the expression of these emotions should emerge in an intellectually-mastered visual language which is founded on a harmonious palette of colors.

After the war, De Smet developed this approach further, whose ambition was to elegantly blend cubism and expressionism, especially under André Lhote’s and Fernand Léger’s influence. In the scenes depicted by De Smet, such as those representing circuses, carnivals, fairs, etc., people become increasingly simplified and reduced to their basic features, while being reminiscent of some scenes by Karl-Schmidt Rottluf. Here, the couple is frontally depicted in a range of autumnal browns. These colors, which are indicative of the artist’s color palette, evoke the feeling of peace and eternal majesty which pervades De Smet’s entire oeuvre.

Acquired by several prestigious collectors, such as Fernand Graindorge, before entering the collection of Tony Herbert, this painting was exhibited multiple times across the world, including in Belgium, France, Italy, Brazil, Switzerland, Netherland, and Germany. This fact demonstrates its significance in the artist’s oeuvre as well as in the art from the second half of the 20th century.