Contemporary, Modern Art and Old Masters

Auction 174 - 19 October 2019

Contemporary, Modern Art and Old Masters Lot 164

Frits Van den Berghe (Belgium / 1883 - 1939)
Clowns (1925)


€ 80 000 - 100 000

"Frits Van den Berghe" PMMK, Ostend 1999-2000, cat. nr. 78 reprod.
"Frits Van den Berghe" Reeks Sélection chronique de la vie artistique, cahier 12, André De Ridder, Antwerp 1931, p. 128 reprod.
"Sint-Martens-Latem: gezegend oord van de Vlaamse Kunst" Paul Haesaerts, Arcade, Brussels 1965, nr. 698 reprod.
"Frits Van den Berghe 1883-1939. De mens en zijn werk" E. Langui, Mercatorfonds, Antwerp 1968, nr. 180, p. 306
"Sint-Martens-Latem, kunstenaarsdorp in Vlaanderen" Piet Boyens, Lannoo, Tielt 1992, p. 525 reprod.
"Frits Van den Berghe" Piet Boyens, with catalogue raisonné by Patrick Derom & Gilles Marquenie, Pandora, Antwerp 1999, nr. 418, p. 216 and p. 413 reprod.
With certificate
Gal. Georges Giroux, Brussels, auction 18 June 1956, nr. 140
coll. Dr. Buytaert, Antwerp

Frits Van den Berghe - Come and see !

Tumbling clowns, juggling Pierrots, acrobatics. Frits Van den Berghe shines his spotlights on the funniest circus artists of all, the "Clowns" (1925). This piece is part of the "Spectacles" series, in which he depicts the rhythm and musicality of music halls, fairs, circuses and cinemas. It is one of the three series that Van den Berghe elaborates in gouache and watercolor between 1924 and 1926. Another series deals with the theme "The Woman", from which Gallery De Vuyst auctioned last May the mysterious "Le café" (1924-26) (hammer price € 200,000).

The liberated approach in gouache and watercolor appeals to numerous artists in the 1920s such as Zadkine, Dufy and Metzinger. They show their work in galleries in Brussels such as Sélection and Le Centaure. Their search is in line with the feeling of carelessness and joie de vivre in this period of great contradictions, between the two world wars. It's all about parties, spectacle and jazz, but at the same time a feeling of uncertainty holds society in a tight grip.

Pictorial convention gives Van den Berghe the shivers. In these series he seeks an outlet for his creative unrest and playful spirit. The use of gouache and watercolor allows a freer process by breaking open all too rigorous and familiar compositions. Bright, contrasting color fields and geometric shapes accumulate into a kaleidoscopic whole in which color prisms shape the magical setting.

The hallucinatory composition's entire energy is concentrated in the central point of convergence, around which the clowns happily tumble and balance. Like the wheel of Fortune, the shapes, colors and figures spin before our eyes. But fun and entertainment have a grim undertone: what is up and what is down? The clown below, in soft colors and contours, with a naive look, is overshadowed by his dark reflection. Depicted in harder lines and heavier colors, the latter gives us an uncomfortable look. Van den Berghe juggles with the human psyche and unveils the illusion of light-heartedness. Besides… the clown is fooling who? His audience, or himself?

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