Contemporary, Modern Art and Old Masters

Auction 176 - 26 september 2020

Contemporary, Modern Art and Old Masters Lot 116

Léon De Smet (Belgium / 1881 - 1966)
View of the Thames (1915)


€ 40 000 - 50 000

This is a view of London and the old Waterloo Bridge, seen from the apartment of the writer George Bernard Shaw. Also in London, where the painter had fled in 1914, his exceptional talent was soon recognized. John Galsworthy, Nobel Prize winner for Literature, and the other famous author G.B. Shaw introduced him to the highest circles, who did not fail to buy paintings and order portraits at his London exhibitions. In London, the Thames inspires Léon De Smet to make some city impressions. The river is always seen from a bird's eye view. He is moved by the motif of the thick mist that obstructs the sharp view of the river, the bridges and the banks. Here and there the canvas is even visible in order to obtain the necessary vibration.
"Art belge, Londres"

The distinguished Belgian painter - Léon De Smet

London 1915, a busy day at Waterloo Bridge: a pleasant bustle fills the sidewalks and traffic lines the streets. One can almost hear the circulation and feel the movement in this play of vibrating keys and swipes. De Smet more often chooses to observe and display his street scenes from above. Even during his stay in England, he remains faithful to his impressionist style. This is in contrast to his Latem friends Permeke, Frits Van den Berghe, Gustave De Smet and Albert Servaes who took the path to expressionism. De Smet was an esthete who always orchestrated his palette with care, taste and a refined sense of color.

When the First World War broke out, Léon De Smet and his family managed to catch the last boat in Ostend and reach England. Here his artistic style was particularly well received and with an obvious ease he penetrated into the circles of high society. He was referred to as "The distinguished Belgian painter. (…) He believes in brightness and you walk into an effulgence of reds, blues, yellows and other primary colors, which dazzle you long after you leave the room." Despite the appreciation De Smet enjoyed in London, and the chance of an even greater success, he decided in 1923 to leave the city and return to Belgium. Homesickness made his heart long.
coll. George Bernard Shaw, London
coll. François Thoun, Brussels

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