A Fountain in a Village Square The Artist’s House at Gerberoy (Les Volets clos, Gerberoy)

Henri LE SIDANER (Port-Louis, 1862 - Versailles, 1939)


Although he spent some time at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1880, Henri Le Sidaner soon gave up this academic training and settled in the town of Etaples, in the Pas de Calais. Here he lived and worked for the next five years in isolation, painting views of the surrounding countryside and scenes of peasant life. In 1887 his painting Après l’office was selected for the Salon des Artistes Français in Paris, and he continued to exhibit there until 1893. The following year Le Sidaner returned to Paris, and in 1891 he began to exhibit at the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, winning a third prize medal. In 1897 he had his first one-man gallery show at the Galerie Mancini in Paris, where he exhibited thirty-four paintings. From 1899 onwards, he enjoyed an exclusive arrangement with the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris, which handled the sale of all of his paintings until the closure of the gallery in 1931. Around 1901 Le Sidaner visited the village of Gerberoy, about a hundred kilometres north of Paris, on the border of Normandy and Picardy. He eventually settled in the town, building a studio and working there until the end of his life, painting numerous scenes of his cottage and the extensive gardens that he planted. In 1930 he was at last admitted into the Académie des Beaux-Arts, a triumph for a painter who chose to work outside official circles for most of his career.

Le Sidaner delighted in capturing transient effects of light, and would paint scenes in bright sunlight, twilight, moonlight or even artificial light. While he often made sketches and drawings sur le motif, his paintings themselves were generally painted from memory rather than direct observation. He was able to achieve remarkable effects of solitude and serenity in his pictures, and chose his compositions carefully to heighten the poetic mood. As one contemporary critic wrote, ‘corners of small towns in winter, glum suburbs, a farm with pallid windows, streets with echelons of feeble, pensive lights form a decor which gives the best possible expression to Le Sidaner's exquisite sensitivity.’

Henry Marcel, another contemporary writer, praised the artist’s ‘secret predilection for lived-in places that are impregnated with a living presence and everyday concerns…it is the intimacy of these places captured with patient observation, the evocation of their noble or obscure history, and above all their close association with the existences that were lived out there; the impression that they left upon them.‘