Maisons au bord de l’eau
Houses by the water
Gouache and charcoal on paper, ca. 1895-1920
Signed on the lower right de Feure
30 x 49 cm
Sale, Christie’s, 11 December 2019, lot 18966
Best known for his posters in Art Nouveau style, Georges de Feure (real name Georges Joseph van Sluijters) was one of the most versatile and original artists working at the fin de siècle. He was an autodidact, moving with ease from painting to graphic, theatre and industrial design.
The son of a Dutch architect, De Feure was born in Paris in 1868. He was first educated in the arts in Amsterdam, at the Rijksacademie. Dissatisfied with formal education, the artist moved to Paris to educate himself. He started out as an illustrator for the Courrier Français, Le Figaro Illustré and Les Modes. The affiches he designed at this time for the Salon des Cent and Thermes Liégeois and others, were influenced by the work of Jules Chéret. Moving from symbolism to the new style, De Feure became one of the most important designers working for Siegfried Bing’s gallery ‘Maison de l’Art Nouveau’. He designed furniture, glass, lamp shades and earthenware for the gallery. The much noted gallery’s pavilion at the 1900 Paris World Fair was another one of his triumphs. Other artistic cooperations followed, notably with the Maison Krieger in 1908, for which he designed furniture, and after 1928, the Maison Madeleine Vionnet. But in spite of his artistic successes, De Feure died in poverty in Nazi-occupied Paris.
While the majority of his work consists of affiches and decorative arts, De Feure also produced a body of paintings. He presented a range of landscapes at an exhibition held at the Salle Vos in Brussels in 1912. The owner, Charles Vos, had been an acquaintance since the 1890’s and De Feure created posters for his publications, Le Diablotin and the Journal des ventes. The author Ray Nyst remarked of this exhibition: «Ses gouaches, paysages, sont, en réalité, de l’art décoratif de petit format». [Ian Millman, Georges de Feure : maître du symbolisme et de l’art nouveau, Paris, 1992, p. 241]
This painting might have been exhibited in 1912. It is a good example of the landscapes, situated somewhere in Belgium or Holland perhaps, that De Feure made from 1895 onwards. Inspired by his travels, these landscapes share the same color palette, the treatment of perspective, and the partially visible boats in the foreground. The main element is often placed off-centre, in order to create a more dramatic perspective where the water and the sky meet. It is not certain whether this is an existing landscape, or one dreamed up by De Feure.
A second viewing reveals many new discoveries, such as the details on the houses, the lamppost hidden in the foreground and the fisherman heading to the water. What may well be the same landscape, but from another perspective, can be seen in a work called Tour près de la mer from 1898-1902, now in a private collection. (, Millman 1992, p. 187).