Early in Henri Le Sidaner’s career as an artist in late 19th Century Europe, classical artistic training still consisted of the copying of artworks in the Louvre, academicism still held sway, and the Impressionists had not yet won the battle against classicism. However, as a 23-year-old novice, Le Sidaner recognised the genius of the then-controversial Manet at the Paris Salon and resigned his scholarship place at the highly prestigious École des Beaux-Arts. In 1885 he gave up his tutelage under the esteemed Belle Époque painter Alexandre Cabanel and retreated to the fishing port of Étaples to (in his own words), “find a cure in the open air and in nature” (Camille Mauclair, Henri Le Sidaner, 1928, p. 3). Twelve years later, Le Sidaner would emerge from his solitary existence to re-enter the global art world.
Soir was painted in the summer of 1896, during one of Le Sidaner’s visits to his sister Marguerite’s house in Montreuil-Bellay, on the Thouet river. It exemplifies his masterful ability to paint a veil of velvety shadow over the world. Illuminated by a single burning lamp in a window, the riverside scene demonstrates Le Sidaner’s preoccupation at that time with poetic silence and intimacy.
Le Sidaner characteristically sought to depict the feelings evoked by ‘things’, rather than directly representing those ‘things’ themselves. In particular, he became drawn to the effects of dusk and moonlight; the silent, mystic moments when the world is not yet completely shrouded in darkness. His efforts to capture the feeling of such moments culminated in 1897 with his series of 34 works, including Soir, exhibited in his first critically successful private exhibition at the Galerie Mancini in Paris.
Le Sidaner’s atmospheric works are rarely offered in Australia, with only one coming up at auction in recorded history – Le Moulin Gris, Montreuil-Bellay (1914) – which sold for $200,000 in 1998. Many of his works are found in the world’s great museums including the Musée d’Orsay, The Tate, and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
We look forward to presenting this work within our September Collector’s Auction in Sydney.
MARCELLA FOX / Sydney Manager
Banner Image: HENRI LE SIDANER (French, 1862-1939) Soir 1896, oil on board, 23.8 x 33.5cm | $20,000-30,000