To be included in the archives for the forthcoming Critical Catalogue being prepared by the Comité Leo Gestel.
From 1907, 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. Instead they desired to depict the essence itself at its profoundest 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, Post-Impressionism and Fauvism and later forms of Cubism and Futurism. Of special interest and inspiration was Vincent van Gogh, whose importance was recognised 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, organised an influential exhibition of contemporary art and the strong and bright colours of Kees van Dongen's paintings had a profound impression on these young artists. With Sluijters, Gestel travelled several times to Paris where he was stunned by the art of Picasso.
From 1912, Gestel painted a series of flower still lifes. In these paintings he drew towards abstraction, but Gestel 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).
1913 was an important year in the development of Leo Gestel's very personal style. This is the year in which his art would become prosperous. The 1912 international futurist exhibition in the Kunstzaal Roos in Amsterdam, featuring Gino Severini, inspired Gestel to find a personal interpretation of cubistic Futurism.
In the present work, Gestel is clearly inspired by the formal-abstract side of Futurism. Gladiolen displays a bristling of colours that moves towards all directions. The vase and the flowers look as if they have fragmented in an endless number of colourful pieces. The surrounding area is no more than an echo. 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].'