Being influenced by Art Nouveau Leon De Smet's work shows an elegant and linear style in the 1910's, as we can see in 'Louisa' from 1916 (see: Piet Boyens, p. 148). This work is a precursor for his formalized decorative style from the 1920's. The artist's development is not linear though and in 1918 De Smet's preference for rich textures and a more exuberant style returns, prominently showing in 'The Red Table' (1921) (see: Piet Boyens, p. 155) and the present lot.
In 'Dédé at the table' the artist's attention is evenly divided between the girl and her surroundings. The décor, a flowery wall covering and a flowery table cloth obtrude upon us. The feeling of depth has almost disappeared and the strong diagonal line from lower left to upper right is dominant. The still life of porcelain, the table and the young girl are all composed around this axis. The paint layer is applied generously, but also the lack of paint, showing the bare canvas in places, is a way to enhance the vibration of the surface.
The artist's way to structure his orchestration of colours is visible. Bright, saturated colours and a certain linearity compete for priority. As a matter of fact it is with 'Dédé at the table' that De Smet stands at the verge of two stylistic forms. Luminism is still present: the separate shapes optically dissolve in colourful brushstrokes. At the same time De Smet is searching for a stronger architecture of the image. He now compensates the decomposition of shapes by more attention to the linear aspect, which will lead to his more expressive work of the 1920's. The renewed contact with the work of Gustave De Smet, Frits Van den Berghe and Constant Permeke may well have caused this shift. From 1920 on De Smet would regularly visit Belgium, while keeping his residence in London, where he fled at the outbreak of World War I.
Piet Boyens states about the quality of Leon De Smet's work: "(...) as an expression of a bygone douceur de vivre De Smet's painting, spontaneous and with great love for the profession, contains an undeniable enchantment. In love with light and with life the artist has kept faith in all pleasant and graceful. The sunny side of life fully shows in all its splendor. In his best work De Smet succeeds strikingly in giving shape to happiness (...)" (see: P. Boyens, H. Bosschaert, 1994, pp. 153-156, 246).