• Impressionist and Modern Art auction at Christies

    Sale 2828

    Impressionist and Modern Art

    17 November 2009, Amsterdam

  • Lot 69

    Gustave de Smet (1877-1943)

    De danszaal: the ballroom

    Price Realised  


    Gustave de Smet (1877-1943)
    De danszaal: the ballroom
    signed 'Gust De Smet' (lower right)
    charcoal and gouache on paper
    64 x 54 cm.
    Executed in 1921.

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    Once De Smet was at ease with his mature style it hardly changed over the next twenty years. In the 1920s his palette began to brighten and De Smet reverted to the subject matter of the villagers, the farm and the fields. The very soil on which he lived and which his neighbours tilled to earn their bread, became the very heart of his paintings and led De Smet to paint in these years some of the greatest masterpieces of Flemish Expressionism. "These heroes are at the same time passionate, quiet and elementary. In the esthetic he invents, the same characteristics are found: robust simplicity, internal vigour, obsessional motionlessness. The alliance between those three qualities give the work its pictural magic, its enchanting powers, its plastic shining (...) his work is a transposition of the popular existence" (see: P. Haesaerts, Laethem-St. Martin, Le village lu de l'art flamand, Brussels 1965, p. 283).

    By so doing he was able to create his own world full of the expressive quality of the hard-working Flemish farmer and his family. Extreme simplification gave his work an evocative power and force of expression of rare intensity. The present lot is probably a preliminary work for the painting The Ballroom, now in the collection of the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven (see: P. Boyens, cat.no. 570, p. 364). In composition the works are very similar. In comparison the colours of the gouache are much brighter. Influenced by Fernand Léger he organised a group of figures in a complicated and extremely daring composition. The blue column in the middle splits the image in two and it seems, there are four different scenes in one painting. During his life, De Smet made several works with a full packed crowd, such as De Herberg, Blues and Het Grote Bal (see: P. Boyens, cat.no. 662, 706 and 891). The voluminous and monumental size of the figures might, as Boyens stated, have been inspired by the Neo-Classical style that was en-vogue in the 1920's by artists such as Picasso. The present lot was his first major challenge towards a new and mature style.

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    Mr. Jean Pirard, Verviers.
    Mr. Victor Servranckx, Brussels.
    Anonymous sale, Campo, Antwerp, April 1967, lot 53, where acquired by the father of the present owner.


    P.G. van Hecke and Emile Langui, Gustave De Smet, sa vie son oeuvre, Brussels 1945, p. 21.
    P. Boyens, Gust. De Smet, Antwerp 1989, cat.no. 569, p. 364, ill..


    Brussels, Galerie Le Centaure, Gustave de Smet, 10 April-21 April 1926.
    Brussels, Galerie Georges Giroux, Gust De Smet, 5-16 January 1929.
    Brussels, Galerie Georges Giroux, Collectie Jean Pirard, cat.no 252.