Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Henri Le Sidaner, Place de la Concorde

Henri Le Sidaner, Place de la Concorde, 1909

Today's painting is in many ways quite similar to yesterday's.  Painted almost the same year, they are both dreamlike portraits of their city, one is so Paris and one is so New York.  I think they make a fascinating and beautiful pair.

Henri Le Sidaner (1862-1939) was a French artist who is very difficult to classify into any particular movement, and his reputation has suffered for it.  Born in Mauritius, his family settled in Dunkirk when he was eight years old.  He studied at the École des Beaux-Arts, but left before his schooling was complete because he broke with his teacher, Alexandre Cabanel, over artistic differences.  He retained the wandering spirit of his early childhood and traveled all over France and Europe.  Le Sidaner drew on many contemporary movement, Post-Impressionism, Pointillism, Fauvism, Symbolism, but he belongs to none of them.  This is partly due to his own insistence; he refused to be classified, and when pressed declared himself "an intimist."  He was described by a friend as "a sort of mystic with no faith."  Le Sidaner's work is very interesting, demonstrating an interest in a wide variety of subject matter.  He painted cityscapes and landscapes, a self-portraitstill-lifegenre paintings.  Place de la Concorde (sometimes called Paris in the Rain) is a very atmospheric piece.  The wet cobblestones reflect the modern streetlights, while the famous monuments of Paris rise behind the expanse of the street.  While this image is quite small, an excellent detail shows the intense care that went into the brushwork and the artist's ability to make a powerful artwork out of small and disparate pieces.  Le Sidaner had mild success in his lifetime but his refusal to be a member of any artistic group damaged his success and his legacy after his death.  However, only this past year, he had a retrospective in Paris and he is now seen as a fascinating, talented, and idiosyncratic painter, worthy of further study and exhibition.

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