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Emile Claus: the impressionist of Flanders

Originally from Flanders, Emile Claus (1849-1924) was a master of genre painting. He began in a resolutely realistic style before adopting an increasingly impressionistic form under the influence of Monet, Sisley and even Pissarro. Although forgotten with the rise of Flemish expressionism, Emile Claus had a major influence on generations of Belgian painters, in his mastery of the effects of sun, snow and the wet colors of landscapes bathed in light.

Paul Cezanne Nature morte aux pommes 1893 – 1894 . The J Paul Getty Museum
Emile Claus"Bietenoogst" 1890 Museum van Deinze en de Leiestreek, België

As for many of his contemporaries, his artistic vocation did not go well with the wishes of his father, who put him on an apprenticeship as a baker. The future painter was then a railway supervisor before a friend of the family persuaded them to let him study painting at the Academy of Antwerp.

Emile Claus. Été . 1893. Musée Royal des Beaux Arts d'anvers
Emile Claus. Été .1893. Musée Royal des Beaux Arts d'anvers

However, the romantico-mythological teaching he received there did not suit him. Émile Claus refuses to compete for the Prix de Rome saying: "I neither know nor want to paint Greeks and Romans..."

After having made several stays in Paris, he settled in Astène in a house which he baptized "Eclat du soleil". His paintings are characterized by a sense of movement and energy, and a feeling of spontaneity, without denying a certain affiliation with a form of academicism and realism, as evidenced by the influence of Jules Bastien-Lepage.

Émile Claus. Journée ensoleillée. 1899. Musée des Beaux Arts de Gand
Émile Claus. Journée ensoleillée. 1899. Musée des Beaux Arts de Gand

Like Claude Monet, Emile Claus painted the light of Venice, where he stayed for several months with his friend Le Sidaner in 1906 and the mists of the Thames in 1916. For the latter, the filiation is obvious, same contrast, same gradient of colors, same ghostly view of the British capital at sunset...

Émile Claus. Coucher de soleil sur le pont de Waterloo. 1916. Collection Oscar de Vos ©S. Goyens de Heusch
Claude Monet, Le Parlement, coucher de soleil 1904 Zürich, Kunsthaus

Dans ses conférences d'histoire de l'art, Fabrice Roy conjugue le passé au présent, dans une évocation poétique et ludique du 19ème siècle français...



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