Lot 147
  • 147

THÉO VAN RYSSELBERGHE | À l'ombre des pins (Agay) or Sous les pins (Agay)

400,000 - 600,000 GBP
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  • Théo van Rysselberghe
  • À l'ombre des pins (Agay) or Sous les pins (Agay)
  • signed with the artist's monogram (lower left)
  • oil on canvas
  • 85.8 by 110.5cm., 33 3/4 by 39 1/2 in.
  • Painted in 1905.


Private Collection, Oslo (acquired in 1916)
Galleri Haaken, Oslo (sale: Sotheby's, London, 1st December 1976, lot 95)
Paul Espagne, Belgium (purchased at the above sale)
Private Collection, Belgium (sale: Sotheby's, New York, 17th November 1983, lot 138)
Albert Henry, U.S.A. (purchased at the above sale; sale: Sotheby's, London, 29th November 1989, lot 137)
Aska International, Japan (purchased at the above sale)
Sale: Christie's, London, 9th December, 1998, lot 167
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner 


Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Théo van Rysselberghe, 1908, n. 14 (titled À l'ombre des pins)
Anvers, Salon de l'Art Contemporain, 1909, n.n. (titled À l'ombre des pins)
Brussels, Palais du Cinquantenaire, Le Salon de Printemps. XVIme Exposition de la Société Royale des Beaux-Arts, 1909, n. 504 (titled À l'ombre des pins)
Rotterdam, Rotterdamse Kunstkring, Tentoonstelling van werk van Théo Van Rysselberghe, 1909, n. 25 (titled Onder de pijnboomen (Agay)) illustrated in the catalogue
Utrecht, Vereeniging « voor de kunst », Tentoonstelling van werk van Théo Van Rysselberghe, 1909-10, n. 12 (titled Onder de pijnboomen (Agay))
(Possibly) Groningen, Pictura Théo van Rysselberghe, 1910, n. 21, illustrated in the catalogue
Brussels, Musée d’Art Moderne, La Libre Esthétique. L’évolution du paysage,1910, n. 184, (titled Sous les pins, à Agay)
Paris, Galerie Druet, Exposition annuelle, 1er groupe […],1910, n. 29, (titled Sous les pins. (Agay))
Venice, XEsposizione internazionale d'Arte, 1912, no. 117 (titled Sotto I pini)
Ghent, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Exposition Universelle, 1913, no. 512, (titled Sous les pins)
Paris, Bernheim-Jeune & Cie, Le Paysage du Midi, 1914, n. 48 (titled À l'ombre des pins)
Paris, Atelier de Théo Van Rysselberghe, [Exposition personnelle], 1914, (titled Sous les pins (Agay) (avec deux petits nus))
Paris, Manzi et Joyant, 1914, (titled À l’ombre des pins (Agay))
Geneva, 1916, (titled Sous les pins (Agay))
Antwerp, Galerie Campo, Théo van Rysselberghe, 1977, no. 313 (titled À l’ombre des pins)


(Possibly) Théo van Rysselberghe, letter to H., Van de Velde, 24th April 1906
Jules-Louis Tellier 'L'Art Contemporain II' in La Fédération Artistique, Bruxelles, April 1909 (titled À l'ombre des pins)
Arnold Goffin, 'La Libre Esthétique. L'évolution du paysage. [Rubric:] Les Salons' in La Belgique Artistique & Littéraire, Bruxelles, XIX, 56, 1910, p. 248 (titled Sous les pins à Agay)
Louis Piérard, 'Les Artistes belges à Venise' in L'Art Moderne, Bruxelles, July 1912, p. 235 
Sabine Mund & Henry Bounameaux, 'La cote de l'artiste Théo van Rysselberghe' in Arts Antiques Auctions, June 2001, illustrated p. 47 (titled À l'ombre des pins)
Ronald Feltkamp, Théo van Rysselberghe, 1862-1926, Brussels, 2003, no. 1905-046, illustrated in colour p. 187
Théo Van Rysselberghe (exhibition catalogue), Brussels,  Palais des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles & La Haye, Gemeentemuseum, 2006, p. 67


Please note that there is a professional condition report for this work, please contact mariella.salazar@sothebys.com to request a copy.
"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

Théo van Rysselberghe was first confronted with Pointilism, the pioneering technique of the Neo-Impressionist movement with which his own work is most closely associated, upon seeing Georges Seurat’s seminal Un dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte at the eighth Impressionist exhibition in Paris in 1886. After this formative viewing, van Rysselberghe continued to develop a personal form of this style throughout the late 1880s and early 1890s. Based in part on the styles of the French artists Paul Signac, Georges Seurat, and Henri-Edmond Cross, van Rysselberghe’s output is imbued with a distinctly Symbolist sensibility. Pertaining to his later technique of longer and more relaxed brushstrokes, the work effortlessly conveys the blissful light and colours of the Mediterranean seaside and demonstrates the strong influence of Matisse’s Luxe, calm et volupté of 1904, a seminal work which had a profound effect on a whole generation of painters. Along with the poet Emile Verhaeren and the famed critic Octave Maus, van Rysselberghe was a founder of the Brussels-based progressive Neo-Impressionist group known as Les XX or Les Vingt. Named for its twenty founding members in 1883, van Rysselberghe played an important role in organising the group’s annual exhibitions and was considered by many to be its leading visual artist. Drawing upon his reputation and extensive connections, van Rysselberghe extended an invitation to Seurat to participate in a salon in Brussels in 1887. While the friendship between van Rysselberghe and Seurat eventually deteriorated due to his departure from the strict division of colour practiced by Seurat, van Rysselberghe’s relationship with Henri-Edmond Cross flourished. From 1904 onwards, van Rysselberghe often stayed at the Cross’ home in Saint Clair where the two artists explored and painted the Côte d’Azur together. These sojourns were incredibly impactful, as seen in the present work which studies the effects of light upon a pair of bathers reposing under pine trees. À l'ombre des pins depicts nature at its finest with peaceful luminosity, suffusing the bathers in a moment of warm tranquility. The dappled shade pulsating under scented pines conveys the impression of rays of light refracting and reflecting sunlight on the shimmering sea.

In À l'ombre des pins, van Rysselberghe manipulates his brush with a sense of freedom by applying colour less methodically compared to his earlier works. As a result, he emboldens the composition with an innate spirit and energy which conveys the blissful effects of light on the Mediterranean seaside. As is the case in his most successful works, the present work is unified through languid yet precisely applied brushstrokes with a carefully controlled Neo-Impressionist palette. Following the example of Cézanne, van Rysselberghe establishes a complex arrangement of spatial planes and illusion of depth while simultaneously asserting the two-dimensional surface qualities of the painting through the flat, constructive units of brushstrokes. Reminiscent of Van Gogh’s most successful compositions, À l'ombre des pins recalls Oliviers avec ciel jaune et soleil, executed in San-Rémy just six years earlier in 1889.

As explained by the art historian Paul Fierens, 'About 1900, Van Rysselberghe's art relaxed. The colourist had gradually left behind the orthodoxy of Neo-Impressionism. He was still 'separating', but in a less methodical manner. His brush-stroke was becoming larger. He was manipulating the brush and matching pure colour tones to each other with a new freedom. He was moving away from the technique of light-painting while preserving its spirit; he seemed no longer to consult anything but his instinct and his senses in the choice of tone and strength of colour, and in the disposition of strokes' (Paul Fierens, Théo van Rysselberghe, Brussels, 1937, p. 27).

The zenith of the artist’s mature output, À l'ombre des pins is a harmonious combination of the landscape, which dominated Van Rysselberghe earlier work, with the female nude, a motif he passionately began to undertake around the turn of the century. The van Rysselberghe scholar Patricia vander Elst-Alandre examined this shift: ‘Before 1905, Van Rysselberghe had painted few nudes. That year, he began seriously to come to terms with this new genre, which became one of his favourites. He painted nudes under pine trees, after bathing, lying down and relaxed, at their toilet in front of the mirror, doing their hair, washing in the bath [...]His nudes painted in interiors, just like his portraits, illustrate the same desire to focus the spectator’s attention on the subject…. Certain models will be his ‘favourites’ – Maude, ‘the redhead’, Paquita, Marcella the Venetian [...]” (Théo van Rysselberghe (exhibition catalogue), Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels & Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, 2006, p. 69).

The artist was especially interested by the theme of bathers, having seen the work of Boticelli on a trip to Florence in 1890. Having adopted the same aim as Botticelli to represent cultural flourishment, the pink and mauve hues of the rocky outcrop capture the bucolic harmony of an Arcadian paradise. A means to escape the confines of religious orthodoxy, the turn of the century quest to build a ‘New Arcadia’ brought about the vision of social equality. This is in essence the underlying ethos of À l'ombre des pins, along with many of the most important Neo-Impressionist works including Signac’s masterpiece Au temps de l’harmonie. Facilitated by the synergy between visual artists, musicians and writers of Les XX as well as the slower pace of life in the South of France, À l'ombre des pins is a tour-de-force of the artist’s mature output exemplary of van Rysselberghe’s utopian viewpoint.

To be included in the forthcoming Van Rysselberghe online Catalogue raisonnée being prepared by Ronald Feltkamp. We thank Olivier Bertrand for providing additional information on this painting which will be included in his Théo Van Rysselberghe Catalogue raisonné.