The years 1910-1911 are very important for the development in the oeuvre of Leo Gestel; they mark the shift from the early Amsterdam luminism to his later variant on Dutch cubism. Even though the influence of Picasso is not yet very clear, the present lot can be seen as an important work in his career towards his very short cubist exercise of a few years later.
In 1910, after a trip to Paris with his former classmate Jan Sluijters, Leo Gestel meets his future wife An Overtoom. Although she is only 18 years old at that time, they soon become very close. They would not marry until 1922. The portrayal of An becomes one of the most constant themes throughout the oeuvre of Leo Gestel. One of the first examples of this is a pastel drawing entitled Flirtation, circa 1910 (private collection, The Netherlands) for which she modelled together with the violin player Dirk Gootjes. Although there is no incontestable proof, the similarities in physiognomy of Flirtation, the present lot and other portraits of these years, clearly justify the assumption that this painting is in fact a portrait of An Gestel Overtoom.
In the spring of 1911, this time in the company of An, Jan Sluijters and his wife, Gestel departed for another trip to Paris where he visited the collections of art dealers like Sagot, Uhde and Kahnweiler. Here he is introduced to the work of Derain, Rousseau Le Douanier and Picasso. This trip marks a watershed in Gestel's artistic development: the influence of Signac's divisionism is replaced by a style with bigger colour segments. Gestel starts using brighter colours and outlines the elements in his compositions. Influenced by the modernism he witnessed in Paris, he was in search of a simplification of form. Colour becomes the symbol for feelings: a woman's portrait is thus the image of the psyche for the beholder, listening to the sound of colour (cf: lit A.B. Loosjes-Terpstra, Moderne Kunst in Nederland, 1900-1914, Utrecht 1959, p. 141)
Apart from the present lot two other important paintings from 1911 depict his beloved An: Woman with Peach and Lady with cigarette (both in private collections in the Netherlands) clearly show that the same person is portrayed. Nevertheless all three paintings have there own specific character: Woman with peach shows the pureness and elegance of An; Lady with cigarette her sensuality. Although the present lot shows great similarities with both works - An is wearing the same hat with roses as the Lady with cigarette - this painting has a different character. The slight angle of the head and the dark background give An Overtoom a mysterious appearance.