Théo van RYSSELBERGHE
(Ghent 1862 - Saint-Clair 1926)
Portrait of the Artist’s Daughter, Élisabeth Van Rysselberghe
Signed with the artist’s monogram and dated 7 août 96 VR in blue chalk at the upper right.
563 x 380 mm. (22 1/8 x 15 in.)
A few years after this portrait was drawn, when Élisabeth Van Rysselberghe was nine years old, her parents met the writer André Gide, who was to become close to both Théo and his wife Maria. Gide and Théo exchanged countless letters over many years, while the artist’s wife Maria kept a journal-cum-diary of Gide’s life, unbeknownst to him, for over thirty years. Their daughter Élisabeth was to have an affair with Gide, who was twenty-one years her senior, and had a daughter by him in 1923. As her mother Maria Van Rysselberghe noted of Élisabeth, ‘She was as if subjugated by Gide, attracted by a force to which, no doubt, she gave no name and which would later flourish.’ Élisabeth raised their child on her own, causing something of a scandal at the time, since she also refused to divulge the identity of the girl’s father, even to close relatives. Although Gide was devoted to both Élisabeth and his daughter, he too kept his paternity a secret from almost everyone he knew. Élisabeth eventually married the writer Pierre Herbart, Gide’s secretary, in 1931.
The present sheet remained in the sitter’s family for over a century, until 2006. After Elisabeth’s death in 1980 it passed to her illegitimate daughter with André Gide, Catherine Elisabeth Van Rysselberghe Gide (1923-2013), who had only discovered the identity of her true father when she was thirteen years old.
By descent to the sitter, Élisabeth Van Rysselberghe, Brussels
Thence by descent to her illegitimate daughter, Catherine Elisabeth Van Rysselberghe (Gide), Switzerland
Private collection, Paris
Anonymous sale, Paris, Christie’s, 1 December 2006, lot 7