The present work is a wonderful example of Gestel’s Luminism. Fascinated about the life of the beau monde, the artist captures the moment when people file out of the theatre after a pleasant evening, congregating on the street to debrief about the prior production and to flaunt their fashionable coats and hats. The left part of the composition is bathed in warm light, highlighting the exit where the theatre-goers spill out into the dark streets. Gestel's Luminism is characterised by the juxtaposition of stark colours on the canvas, usually applied with small, sometimes coarser brush-strokes, as seen in the present lot Sortie de l'Opéra. The brisk, cold evening is skilfully conveyed by the contrast of the bright tones of the theatre with the darkness of the street to the right; the reflections of people’s feet in the glistening road instil the feeling that there had just been a downpour of rain. Gestel conjures a scene where the viewer can appreciate the sensory feelings that the people in the painting are experiencing; the high that ensues after a wonderful theatre production and the adjustment of walking out from a crowded stalls, into the cold, fresh air.
At this time, the artist societies played an important role in the diffusion of new developments in art in the Netherlands and it was the Amsterdam Society of St. Luke in particular that was prepared to open its doors to new ideas such as Amsterdam Luminism. Sortie de l'Opéra illustrates Gestel’s talent in depicting the modern Parisian atmosphere and exhibits his innovative painterly style.
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