27 October 2004
Léon-Henri-Marie Frédéric (Belgian, 1856-1940)
'L'Aurore' or 'L'Aube arrachant les Ténèbres'
signed 'Léon Frédéric' (lower right)
oil on canvas
64 x 35 in. (162.6 x 88.9 cm.)
Von Blykaert Collection, Munich.
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G. Frédéric, Léon Frédéric, 1969, p. 77
Munich, Glaspalast, VI Internationale Kunstausstellung, 1892, no. 573.
Brussels, L'Exposition des Vingts, 1893, no. 2.
Frédéric's works from the early 1890's concentrated almost exclusively on symbolist subjects, such as L'Aurore. His paintings were praised by Fernand Khnopff in The Studio and published in foreign journals such as the Austrian Ver Sacrum. Thus the artist became internationally known and his work was exhibited in Paris, Venice and Munich. Such visionary canvases as the present work combine Symbolism with a blend of Realism and Neo-Classicism, and his pantheistic view of nature created a unique treatment of traditional iconography. Aurora, the Greek goddess of dawn and sister of the sun-god Helios, stands draped by a black veil, contrasting with the traditional treatment of the subject, scattering flowers from a four-horse chariot.
Frédéric entered the studio of the Neo-Classicist Jean-François Portaels in the Brussels Academy. The influence of fifteenth and sixteenth century Flemish painting is already apparent in his work and his linear technique is reinforced by his stay in Italy from 1877-80, where he particularly studied the works of Botticelli and Ghirlandaio. On his return to Brussels, he became a member of the group L'Essor. His work of the next decade gradually became imbued with a religious mood and its visionary nature derived from the influence of the Pre-Raphaelites. Despite receiving a gold medal in Berlin in 1891 and several bronze and gold medals from 1889 to 1900 in the United States, the success of the 1890s only received official approval in Belgium during this century. He was created Baron and Knight of the order of King Leopold and in 1929 was finally elected as a member of the Belgian Royal Academy.
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