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    Henri Eugène Le Sidaner (French, 1862-1939)
    La balustrade, Londres, 1908
    Oil on canvas
    25-3/4 x 32 inches (65.4 x 81.3 cm)
    Signed lower left: Le Sidaner


    Galerie Georges Petit, Paris;
    Sotheby's, London, October 19, 1988, lot 288;
    Richard Green, London, 1989.

    Goupil Gallery, London, "Hampton Court and London: A Small Series of Pictures by Henri Le Sidaner," 1908;
    Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris, 1908, no. 728, as La Balustrade (Hampton Court).

    L. Baschet, Catalogue illustré du Salon de 1908, Paris, 1908, p. 17, cat. no 728, as 'La Balustrade (Hampton Court)';
    Y. Farninaux, Le Sidaner: l'œuvre peint et gravé, Monaco, 1989, p. 114, no. 237, illustrated in black and white.

    Throughout his celebrated career, Henri Le Sidaner dedicated himself to capturing atmospheric lighting effects, using dappled brushwork to evoke the diffuse luminosity of dawn and twilight. Frequently classed as an Intimist, Le Sidaner's deeply personal, idiosyncratic style also displays strong Symbolist tendencies, together with unmistakable influences from the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists.

    Henri Le Sidaner's series of works featuring the palace and gardens of Hampton Court painted in 1907-8 feel like dreamscapes-beautiful places glimpsed at dusk, or through the dewy atmosphere of morning, with glare refracting off the moisture in the air. The angled light creates a glow in the mist, for the painter never shows the sun literally rising or setting on the horizon. He only shows its effects in the landscape-diffused and delicate.

    La balustrade (Hampton Court) is the most abstract composition in Le Sidaner's Hampton Court series. In the painting, the palace's ornamental garden railing arcs out into an expanse of shimmering blues, greens, aquas, peaches and delicate yellows, which only vaguely suggests a rippling expanse of water in the foreground, a short flight of steps, and trees beyond. Visually following the curve of the balustrade, the viewer ends up in the center of Le Sidaner's shimmering, iridescent world, which can be almost anywhere one's imagination can devise. The effect Le Sidaner was capable of creating through such sophisticated, minimalist means was described so beautifully by fellow artist, Paul Signac, a Post-Impressionist who himself created works of art based upon a build-up and layering of small brushstrokes of judiciously chosen hues: 'His entire work is influenced by a taste of tender, soft and silent atmospheres. Gradually, he even went so far as to eliminate from his paintings all human figures, as if he feared that the slightest human form might disturb their muffled silence.' (Y. Farinaux, Le Sidaner, L'œuvre peint et gravé, Milan, 1989, p. 31).

    During this later phase of his career, Le Sidaner came to regard the winters at his favorite painting location, his home in Gerberoy, France, as too harsh, and began seeking out more comfortable places to paint, including Venice, Verbania Pallanza, Beaulieu-sur-mer, Chartres, Versailles, London and Hampton Court. His first solo exhibition was held at the Goupil Gallery in 1905, and the exceptional reception of his œuvre by British audiences led him to explore additional subject matter in England. In February 1907 he visited Hampton Court, but unlike other Impressionists who worked en plein air, Le Sidaner preferred to work from memory, working up his remembrances of the palace and its extensive grounds in the studio, which is why La balustrade and the other works in the series are dated 1908. One small, very freely painted work, The Pond Garden, Hampton Court (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge), appears to have been painted on the lid of a cigar box, and may well be a rare example of Le Sidaner's work achieved directly in front of a subject that profoundly inspired him.

    Henri Le Sidaner first exhibited La balustrade together with his complete Hampton Court series at Goupil Gallery, London, in March 1908. The exhibition created a wide critical stir, both in England and on the Continent. While certain fans of the picturesque, or the more radically modern, were puzzled by Le Sidaner's choice not to rearrange motifs to create more dynamic compositions, they were in the minority. Many critics celebrated Le Sidaner's unique vision of the venerable Hampton Court for what it was-an opportunity to focus his fascination with light and atmosphere upon an intrinsically quiet and orderly landscape.

    One particular writer is worth quoting at length, for he provides wonderful contemporary flavor for Le Sidaner's Goupil Gallery reception, wrestling as he does with contemporary debates about the role of picturesque academicism, and the place of realism in painting-growing issues during the first decade of the 20th Century which saw the flowering of European modernism:

    "Le Sidaner is Le Sidaner. He is also (at least so The Times tells us) photographic in the composition of his later pictures.

    In his Hampton Court series, which was painted in 1907 and exhibited at Goupil Gallery in the following spring, he painted the palace as it is and the gardens as he found them, without twisting and twirling things about in order to obtain academic composition. He found the gardens, with their beds and borders, sufficiently beautiful to please him; he found the old courts, with their mellow red brickwork, sufficiently artistic to satisfy him; so he chose out such portions as were characteristic and complete in themselves, set up his easel, and painted them.

    He painted one corner of the garden with the autumn dew lying so thick that the grass looked a smoke-white, and again the same corner with every flower standing clear in the evening light; he painted the courts with the reflection of the setting sun on the windows. In each picture Le Sidaner set himself some problem of light; in each picture he achieved a luminosity that no other painter has approached.

    Now, when The Times critic (I understand that the real critic of the paper was away) calls Le Sidaner's composition 'photographic,' he is verbally correct; when he points out a certain lack of rhythm, swing, and emphasis, he is visually correct; but when he speaks of these qualities as defects in Le Sidaner's paintings, he is altogether unreasonable. Paint Hampton Court with rhythm, swing, and emphasis, and it would cease to be Hampton Court as we know it.

    The truth is, that conventional Art has educated herself up to the rhythm, swing, and emphasis of a Raphael, Correggio, a Titian, even as a Frenchman has educated himself to absinthe. Those who can appreciate the Italian pre-Raphaelites and certain of the Moderns, have learnt to appreciate something that is more natural. The insistent ripple of the brook, the monotonous hum of the bees, and the steady flop to the summer wavelets are not faults, nor is life danced to eternal waltz music-which, being interpreted, means that quiet, selective composition may be very delightful" (A. J. Anderson, The A B C of Artistic Photography in Theory and Practice, New York, 1917, pp. 116-17).

    The eleven works belonging to Le Sidaner's Hampton Court series were not designed by the artist to be identical in size. Rather, he selected the size of his canvas supports to match his individual compositions, resulting in works of somewhat different sizes and proportions. His Le Palais, Matin d'Été (Hampton Court), for example, featuring a long elevation of one of Hampton Court's baroque facades, has a more panoramic format measuring 25 3/8 x 39 3/8 inches (sold Sotheby's, London, June 20, 2019, lot 307). Pound Garden, Hampton Court, by contrast, which records a formal garden with a central fountain, has dimensions much closer to square at 32 1/8 x 29 ¾ inches (sold Sotheby's, New York, May 4, 2004, lot 185) to accentuate the symmetry of the landscape.

    Condition Report*: Unlined canvas. Under UV examination minor areas of fine inpaint around each extreme edge, possibly to address frame abrasion. Minor touches of fine inpaint in scattered areas. Painting could benefit from a light cleaning.
    Framed Dimensions 32.5 X 38.5 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2020
    29th Friday
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