Maisons blanches, le soir, Quimperlé
wonderfully exhibits Henri Le Sidaner’s unique sensitivity to quiet and poetic beauty, an artistic temperament that came to define his œuvre
. Devoid of figures, the artist captures the exquisite atmosphere of a calm evening in the small town of Quimperlé in Brittany. Le Sidaner first visited Quimperlé in 1918 and returned frequently during the 1920s, painting at least forty-three pictures of the town. Situated at the confluence of three rivers, Quimperlé is known for its criss-crossing bridges and winding canals, making it the ideal subject matter for an artist who delights in painting water, sky and shadow. Le Sidaner sought out vistas that provided artistic inspiration. As the artist’s son, Rémy Le Sidaner recalls, ‘when my father caught one of these special effects he nodded in my direction and stood there, gazing out towards the horizon, impressing on his mind the scene he had just witnessed’ (Yann Farinaux, Le Sidaner,
Paris, 1989, p. 10). The present work is a prime example of a tranquil idyll being translated onto canvas, reflecting the artist’s aim of creating a harmonious balance between the ancient man-made towns of France and their rustic natural surroundings. It exudes a sense of warmth and community, subtly achieved by the touches of yellow emanating from the windows, implicitly suggesting the life within Quimperlé. His art is based on the philosophy that the silent harmony of a place is enough to evoke the presence of those who live among them. Deserted they may be but never empty.
The present work demonstrates Le Sidaner’s virtuoso handling of oil paint and the clever use of complementary yellow highlights and purple shades, made possible through recent developments in colour theory and the manufacture of pigments. Channelling the Impressionist aesthetic, the application of the encompassing green-blue colour reveals the gravitas and mystery that is so particular to Le Sidaner’s œuvre. His talent certainly did not go unnoticed by his contemporaries, with the eminent art critic Louis Vauxcelles writing in the journal L’Exclesior in the same year as this painting was created: ‘Monsieur Le Sidaner has for years been pursuing a direction that distinguishes him: a cloudy Impression with strong accents in which the powerful brushwork does no harm to the characteristic magic of his motifs’ (quoted in Mössner & Karin Sager, Henri Le Sidaner: A Magical Impressionist, Munich, 2009, p. 178).
‘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’ (Camille Mauclair, Henri Le Sidaner, Paris, 1928, p. 252).