Just after the turn of the century, Leo Gestel, Piet Mondriaan and Jan Sluijters were the three most influential modern painters in The Netherlands. They became increasingly dissatisfied with the dominating artistic trend of the time in Dutch art, which was the Impressionism of The Hague School. They desired to depict the essence itself, instead of its most apparent image.
The three painters were the ambassadors of Amsterdam Luminism. Their art was a refreshing turning point for Dutch art. They were stirred by the pure shining of French Impressionism and Post-Impressionism which they came across when visiting Paris in 1904. Of special interest and inspiration also was Vincent van Gogh, whose importance was recognized in the Netherlands in 1903. In 1905, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam was the first to hold a retrospective exhibition of the artist, with no less than 470 works. In 1908, the Amsterdam artists' association, St. Lucas, organized an influential exhibition of contemporary art and the strong and bright colours of Kees van Dongen's paintings had a profound impression on the young artists.
It took Gestel some time to master his new way of expressing with bright touches of colours. He needed to develop and fully understand the new techniques. As soon as he had, he would look forward and started searching for new ways to express himself. He possessed a fear that if he would continue in this now familiar manner, he would not grow and develop as an artist, a cycle that he would repeat his whole life.
From 1912, Gestel painted a series of flower still lifes. In these paintings he drew towards abstraction, but never wished to reach total abstraction. In a letter to his friend Jan Slagter he wrote: 'If you can achieve in art a translation of the modern art concept, while preserving its meaning for the future and keeping it understandable for the conservatives, you've done a useful job' (L. Gestel, quoted in M. van Noort (ed.), Leo Gestel in Bergen, Zwolle 2002, p. 31).
Taking inspiration from the 1912 international futurist exhibition in the Kunstzaal Roos in Amsterdam, featuring Gino Severini, Gestel found a personal and unique interpretation of cubist Futurism from 1913.
In the present lot, Gestel is clearly inspired by the formal-abstract side of Futurism. Bloemstilleven displays bristling colours that move towards all directions. The present lot might be one of the most 'abstract' flower pieces Gestel made. Gestel's flower still lifes are regarded as the Dutch version of Futurism, which generated a lot of attention with grand exhibitions, especially in 1912 and 1913.
Generally his work was regarded as very important to Dutch modern art. The critic, N. Wolf, said in 1913: 'Gestel is one of the most important artists of the Amsterdam painters. He is among the most individual artists in our country.' A fellow avant-garde painter, Erich Wichmann, commented: 'Gestel's works of 1913, foremost the flower still lifes, were the surprise of the 1913 exhibition of the Stedelijk [Museum Amsterdam].'