Among art critics, art-enthusiasts and collectors, Van Mieghem is known as an artist whose work is closely connected to the social-realist movement in art that appeared during the 19th century. The proletariat and its representation is a subject that we find in the work of Belgian and international artists such as Eugène Laermans, Constantin Meunier, Leon Frédéric, Honoré Daumier and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Through his work Van Mieghem shows a strong interest in everyday life as it appears to the artist in his own living environment. Citizens of the city of Antwerp, the docks, as well as his wife and son, are often the subject of Van Mieghem’s paintings and drawings. The work “Augustine with little Eugeen”, depicting on the background the Port of Antwerp, can therefore be considered a synthesis of the artist’s different interests.
Only three painted portraits of Augustine have been inventoried by The Eugeen Van Mieghem Foundation, including “Augustine with little Eugeen”. This impressionist work was once part of the collection of the painter Alfons Van Beurden (1878-1962), who was a friend of Van Mieghem. Van Beurden bought the work in 1903 during the third exposition by the artist group Eenigen (Koninklijk Kunstverbond, Antwerp 29 May – 7 June), in which Van Mieghem took part through 11 of its exhibitions. The family Van Beurden kept the painting in its possession for more than 100 years. Recently it was possible to marvel at the painting in a Eugeen Van Mieghem retrospective at the Musée de Flandre in Cassel (near Lille).
Augustine Pautre was born on 22 December 1880 in Brussels, but due to her father Henri’s lineage she held a Swiss citizenship. Henri left his birth town, Estavayer-le-Lac, to settle in the Belgian capital city around 1870. Together with his wife Marie De Meyer (born in Merksem) he ran a cabaret club in the Beenhouwersstraat 3 in Brussels. The couple had only one child: Augustine. After the death of her husband, Maria De Meyer together with her elderly mother and her daughter moved to Antwerp where, in 1889, Augustine was enrolled in a portrait drawing class held at the Antwerp Academy. At that time Augustine was 17 years old and called herself a “paintress”. Shortly after her enrolment in the Academy, Augustine met Eugeen Van Mieghem whom she married on 28 January 1902. On 11 November of the same year their only child Eugeen Junior was born. Both Augustine and Eugeen Junior were an important source of inspiration for a series of intimate portraits drawn by the artist.
Financially the artist couple met hard times. To acquire a livelihood, Van Mieghem decided in October 1904 to let his wife pose for befriended artists (a.o. J. Posenaer, E. Gastemans, A. Van Beurden and J. De Graef). In early 1905, Augustine became severely ill (tuberculosis). She died on 12 March 1905 at the age of 24. Augustine’s illness reverberated in the poignant drawings which the artist made of his wife in that period. The cycle of works depicting the sick Augustine was exhibited a few years ago at the Institut Néerlandais (Paris), the Rembrandthuis (Amsterdam) and in the Museum Mayer van den Bergh (Antwerp). Art critics have compared the haunting series with similar work by Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1918). They have further pointed to the influence of Rembrandt’s work (depicting the ill Saskia) and that of Munch (his portrait of Sophie Munch when fatally ill of tuberculosis) on Van Mieghem’s study of Augustine. Gunnar Sorenson (curator at the Munch museum in Oslo), for example, has suggested the influence of Munch on the early work of Eugeen Van Mieghem, who in 1897 saw some 10 works by the Norwegian artist at the salon of La Libre Esthétique in Brussels. Considering Van Mieghem’s interest in literature, it is well possible that the work of the American writer Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849) also had an impact on the artist. Poe wrote several stories in which he described the futile struggle of his wife Virginia against tuberculosis that are likely to have been read by Van Mieghem.
Auction House & Gallery De Vuyst kindly invites you on Sunday 15 October at 11 a.m. to the vernissage and reception for the opening of the exhibition. An introductory word will be provided by Mr. Erwin Joos, Director of the Eugeen Van Mieghem Museum and author of the book “Augustine Pautre” (2015). All exhibited works of art are illustrated in the book “Augustine Pautre”, which can also be considered the catalogue of this exhibition.
11 october - 18 october
Daily 10-12 am and 2-8 pm
24 october - 4 november
Tuesday to Saturday 10-12 am and 2-6 pm
Closed on Sundays and Mondays