Henri LE SIDANER
(Port-Louis 1862 - Versailles 1939)
A Fountain in a Village Square
A study of houses around a square (probably the same view) in pencil, with touches of yellow, green and red chalk, on the verso.
Signed Le Sidaner at the lower right.
194 x 247 mm. (7 5/8 x 9 3/4 in.) [sheet]
Around 1901 Le Sidaner settled in the small medieval village of Gerberoy, in the Oise department on the border of Normandy and Picardy, where he built a studio and garden and worked until the end of his life. His house at Gerberoy became the dominant subject of his mature work, providing him with motifs and inspiration for nearly forty years. As the artist’s friend and early biographer Camille Mauclair, writing in 1928, noted, ‘he had the good fortune to find an atmosphere and surroundings that suited his nature and his ideas. He was destined to paint much of France, but Gerberoy was and remains his asylum pacis and family home.’ Apart from his travels around France, Le Sidaner also painted in Venice, London and around Lake Maggiore in Italy. In 1910 he was given a retrospective exhibition at the Galerie Georges Petit, while a room was devoted to his work at the Venice Biennale of 1914. In 1930 Le Sidaner was at last admitted into the Académie des Beaux-Arts, a triumph for a painter who had worked outside official circles for most of his career.
Le Sidaner delighted in capturing transient effects of light, and would paint scenes in bright sunshine, twilight, moonlight or even artificial light. As one American critic, writing in 1906, noted of Le Sidaner, ‘His art expression lies somewhere between that of Corot and that of Claude Monet. It is elusive and delightful and stamps him as one of the most original, one of the most exquisite of France’s younger painters…What Sidaner does not know about light and the method of reflecting it on a canvas seems scarcely worth knowing…’
While Le Sidaner 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 another 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.’ Another French critic, Roger Marx, aptly described the artist’s paintings as redolent of a ‘feeling of peace, of silence and of mystery’.