- Théo van Rysselberghe
Etienne Ader, Paris
Dr Jean Sutter, Paris
Galerie L.G. Baugin, Paris
Arthur G. Altschul, New York (acquired from the above on 29th November 1954. Sold: Sotheby’s, New York, 5th November 2002, lot 4)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Les XX, 1893, no. 4
Paris, Pavillon de la Ville de Paris, 7e Exposition Société des Artistes indépendants, 1893, no. 1288
Paris, 20 Rue Lafitte, Antoine de La Rochfoucauld-Moline, Groupe des peintres néo-impressionnistes, 1893-94, no. 2
Vienna, Secession Building, Ausstellung der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Österreichs, 1899, possibly no. 51
Paris, Galerie L.G. Baugin, Autour de Seurat, 1954, no. 6
New Haven, Yale University Art Gallery, Neo-Impressionists and Nabis in the Collection of Arthur G. Altschul, 1965, no. 15, illustrated in the catalogue (titled L’Escaut en Amont d’Anvers - Après-Midi)
London, 4 St. James’s Square, The Arts Council of Great Britain, Autour de 1900: l'art Belge (1884-1918), 1965
New York, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Neo-Impressionism, 1968, no. 136, illustrated in the catalogue (titled L'Escaut en amont d'Anvers, après le brouillard)
New York, The Brooklyn Museum, Belgian Art: 1880-1914, 1980, no. 90, illustrated in the catalogue
Ghent, Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Het Landschap in de Belgische Kunst 1830-1914, 1980, no. 223, illustrated in the catalogue
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Summer Loan, 1982
Ghent, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Theo van Rysselberghe néo-impressionniste, 1993, no. 42, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Cologne, Wallraf-Richartz-Museum & Lausanne, Fondation de l'Hermitage, Pointillismus: Auf den Spuren von Georges Seurat / Le Pointillisme, sur les traces de Seurat, 1997-98, no. 119, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Paris, Musée d’Orsay, Le néo-impressionnisme de Seurat à Paul Klee, 2005, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts & The Hague, Gemeentemuseum, Théo van Rysselberghe, 2006, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Washington, D.C., The Phillips Collection, Neo-Impressionism and the Dream of Realities: Painting, Poetry, Music, 2014-15, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (titled The Scheldt Upstream from Antwerp, Evening)
Jean Sutter, Les Néo-Impressionnistes, Paris & Neuchâtel, 1970, illustrated p. 207
Richard Shone, The Post-Impressionists, London, 1979, no. 179, illustrated p. 155
Serge Goyens de Heusch, L'impressionnisme et le fauvisme en Belgique, Antwerp, 1988, illustrated in colour p. 197
Théo van Rysselberghe, neo impressionniste (exhibition catalogue), Musée des Beaux-Arts, Ghent, 1993, no. 42, illustrated p. 102
Ronald Feltkamp, Théo Van Rysselberghe, Catalogue raisonné, Brussels, 2003, no. 1892-009, illustrated p. 294; illustrated in colour p. 14
Pierre Sanchez, Le Salon des 'XX' et de la Libre Esthétique, Bruxelles 1884-1914, Dijon, 2012, listed p. 389
Van Rysselberghe was a founding member of the Brussels-based Neo-Impressionist group known as Les XX (sometimes written Les Vingt). The group was founded by van Rysselberghe along with Emile Verhaeren and Octave Maus in 1883, and was named after its twenty members. Van Rysselberghe played an important role in organising the group’s annual exhibitions and was considered by many to be its leading artist. His extensive connections with other painters and writers enabled him to exhibit widely and travel extensively himself.
Van Rysselberghe completed a number of oils of maritime subjects in the years around 1890, many drawing inspiration from the river Scheldt near his native Antwerp and other from excursions further afield. These paintings included a portrait of his friend and fellow painter Paul Signac at the helm of his sailing boat. The two men shared many common interests, not least sailing and painting, and their relationship provided the most substantial connection between the Sociéte des Artistes Indépendants based in Paris and the Belgian group Les XX – to which Signac was elected in 1891.
Allied by their friendship and artistic ambitions, they each nonetheless cultivated their own Neo-Impressionist style, with van Rysselberghe being particularly interested in imbuing his compositions with a rich sense of atmosphere. This characteristic is perfectly exemplified in L’Escaut en amont d’Anvers, le soir with its sunlit palette of yellow and orange beautifully poised with lavender and pale blues and the strikingly similar Soleil couchant, pêche à la sardine, Concarneau, Opus 221 (Adagio) by Signac (fig. 1). The Frenchman’s panoramic view and of the fishing fleet off the coast of Concarneau is somewhat impersonal with each element in the composition dealt with equal precision, while in L’Escaut en amont d’Anvers, le soir, Rysselberghe heightens the contrast of colours and creates a more intimate, contemplative composition.
In discussing the development of Neo-Impressionism and the distinct strands explored by different practitioners, Cornelia Homburg highlights van Rysselberghe and the present work: ‘Théo van Rysselberghe employed a rather daring, restricted color scheme in some of his compositions in order to evoke a mood. […] purple and yellow could be used to produce Big Clouds [fig. 2], Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis] or to create a very different impact in The Scheldt Upstream from Antwerp, Evening [the present work]. This evening scene, with its intense hues, invites us to lose ourselves in reverie. The anchor poles and their reflection in the water provide a gentle rhythm to the composition, while the sailboat’s calm path underlines the evocative atmosphere. With its high horizon line […] one is tempted to recall the high horizons and reflective moods of Whistler’s Nocturnes. Van Rysselberghe personally knew Whistler and had also repeatedly seen his work, among others, at the 1884 Les XX exhibition. Van Rysselberghe of course also knew Seurat’s Gravelines canvases of 1890, exhibited in Brussels and Paris, of which in particular the evening scene must have touched a chord [fig. 3]. While Van Rysselberghe decided to create space horizontally and close the pictorial space with the riverbank on the opposite side, Seurat used the harbour wall opposite in a similar way. However, he chose a low horizon line and gave vast space to sea and sky, leading our view into the distance’ (C. Homburg, Neo Impressionism and the Dream of Realities (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., 2014, pp. 112-113).
In 1893 the present work was featured in the final exhibition of Les XX held in Brussels at the Palais des Beaux-Arts. This was the first show to introduce divisionism or pointillism to a northern European audience. Many of van Rysselberghe’s best works were then shown at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris later in the year, marking the first of many international exhibitions to include L’Escaut en amont d’Anvers, le soir. In 1899 van Rysselberghe was invited to participate in the third exhibition held in the Secession building in Vienna. He chose to exhibit thirty-two works in a dedicated room, including L’Escaut en amont d’Anvers, le soir, though many of them were portraits, such as his paintings of the Sèthe sisters, Émile Verhaeren and Paul Signac in his boat. Van Rysselberghe was also accorded the honour of having an article written about his work by Verhaeren which was published in the chronicle of the Vienna Secession Ver Sacrum. To have been so chosen by Vienna’s leading artists was indicative of van Rysselberghe’s rapidly growing international reputation, as well as their sensitivity towards his particular approach to painting and depiction of atmosphere. The Austrian Secessionists, in particular Gustav Klimt and Carl Moll, were well aware of the pointillist techniques employed by van Rysselberghe and other Neo-Impressionists, and like van Rysselberghe, they were intrigued by the way in which applying paint in a pointillist manner could imbue their subjects with greater animation and atmosphere.
L’Escaut en amont d’Anvers, le soir has subsequently been included in several major one-man exhibitions and Neo-Impressionist group-exhibitions. In 1954 the painting was acquired by Arthur G. Altschul, an American banker and a descendant of one of the three founders of Lehman Brothers. Altschul was a devoted collector of Neo-Impressionist and Nabis art, and a generous supporter of several museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. After nearly half a century in his collection, the present work was sold after his death at Sotheby’s in 2002, and achieved the record price paid for a painting by van Rysselberghe at the time.