Contemporary, Modern Art and Old Masters

Auction 178 - 6 March 2021

Contemporary, Modern Art and Old Masters Lot 139

Léon De Smet (Belgium / 1881 - 1966)
Piccadilly Circus (1918)


€ 60 000 - 80 000

With photo certificate by Mr. Piet Boyens
private coll. Norway, acquired directly from the artist.


When the First World War broke out, Léon De Smet and his family managed to catch the last boat from Ostend to England. London's high society very much appreciated his artistic style. People spoke of him as "The distinguished Belgian painter. (…) He believes in brightness and you walk into an effulgence of reds, blues, yellows and other primary colours, which dazzle you long after you leave the room."

Piccadilly Circus is packed with a teeming crowd. Passers-by navigate between the increasingly busy traffic. Horse-drawn carriages are overrun by motorized vehicles. A single cyclist ventures across the square, while the iconic red double-decker buses are overloaded with passengers. Majestic buildings tower above the square and expand the composition.

The circulation is nearly audible, the movement nearly sensible in this tableau of vibrant colors and streaks in which Léon De Smet depicts his impressionistic touch. He carefully orchestrates his palette of mainly blue and gray tones, enveloping the city in its typical drizzly weather. Bright red accents stand out and render the composition cheerful and nervous. The animated square is the artery of the metropolis, which in 1918 is at a turning point towards modernity.

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