Similar to his colleagues Jan Sluijters, Piet Mondrian and Jan Toorop, Leo Gestel decided to turn away from imitating reality in his art around 1908 - 1909. After studying amongst others Paul Signac's divisionism, the works of the French fauves and of course that of Vincent van Gogh, he came to a very personal variant of what we today call Dutch Luminism. Luminists were not only interested in the rendering of light on the external world, but also in the inner sensation and the emotions induced by light. Precise imitation of the outside world thus was replaced by the expressive powers of colours, appropriate to the impression of the painter while seeing his subject. The technical tools to this end were flattening the composition, leaving out details, exaggeration of the forms of the objects and placing loose brushstrokes next to each other in either complementary or contrasting colours. Luminism caused great sensation during the exhibitions of the painters' society St. Lucas in the period 1908-1910, the absolute climax being the famous separate luminists room in the Stedelijk Museum in the spring of 1909.
Feeling the need to reflect on the position of his art, Leo Gestel retreated for a while to the rural surroundings of Nijmegen during the autumn of 1909. He had the urge 'to work more sensitively' and 'to sacrifice the subject by painting in a more spiritual manner' (op.cit. Loosjes-Terpstra 1983, p. 9). More than ever he found that 'art is the psychological and deliberate action of the emotions of a person, or in other words, art is emotion changed into image'.(Exh.cat. Laren, p. 26)
The present lot, De Blauwe Boom, was executed during the exact same period when Gestel came to his famous series of autumn trees. These series from 1909-1911 are generally considered to be the peak of the 'spiritualized' image of nature in the oeuvre of Leo Gestel. The trees demand the central place in the canvases and are rendered in fluent brushstrokes of bright orange and yellow, surrounded by a sky-area of the same lyrical expressive nature. The first signs of outlining the subject to come to a so-called flat composition evading depth, is cleary visible in the autumn tree canvases. The present lot was executed next to this series, as a very successful experiment to capture the expressive qualities of the colour blue.
The theme of the isolated tree in a landscape is a subject with a long Dutch tradition. For Mondrian and Gestel the work of Van Gogh
must have been a great source of inspiration.
To be included in the archives for the forthcoming Critical Catalogue being prepared by the 'Comité Leo Gestel'.