Fine Art

Camille Bombois

French, 1883-1970

Les Etangs, a Rixensart, Belgium

Oil on canvas
6 ¼ x 9 ½ inches (16 x 24 cm)
Framed: 14 x 17 inches (35.5 x 43 cm)
Lower right: Bombois. C.lle and titled on verso


Private Collection, New York


Camille Bombois was born in Vernarey-les-Laumes, Cotes d'Or in France in 1883. He left school to work on a farm at age twelve and began drawing four years later. In 1907, Bombois fulfilled his dream of moving to Paris, where he married and worked as a railway laborer, eventually finding a night job at a newspaper printing plant handling heavy newsprint rolls. Despite the exhausting nature of his job he painted from dawn to dusk. 1914 marked the beginning of four-and-a-half years of military service in World War I. Bombois spent much of it on the front line, earning three decorations for bravery. Upon his return home, encouraged that his wife had succeeded in selling a number of his paintings in his absence, he resumed his routine of night labor and daytime painting.

By 1922, his sidewalk displays in Montmartre had begun attracting the attention of collectors, as well as art dealer Wilhelm Uhde, who "discovered" him. His first exhibition was the 1937 "Maîtres populaires de la réalité", Paris. Critics compared Bombois' work to that of Henri Rousseau, which it resembled in its naïve drawing, crisp delineation of form, and attention to detail.

Camille Bombois painted with a strong man’s delicacy. Everything visible is precisely defined and set off from the indistinctness of light and movement. Bombois loved the massive darkness of the black paint he uses so heavily. He adored the billiard green, the velvet red, the strong yellow, the saccharine violet of circus posters and the interiors of bordellos. They correspond to the crude objectivity of his drawings. In his landscapes and still lives alike, Bombois was a brilliant colorist and a genius of depth.

Our painting, Les Etangs, a Rixensart, Belgium is a lovely landscape featuring the ponds in Rixensart, Belgium. The composition highlights Bombois’ considerable talent and unique style. The painting depicts a vast lily pond with tree line, cottony clouds and figures walking the trails along the ponds, featuring red and blue outfits. The careful attention to space, the effects of reflected light on water and the color palette of green and blue, punctuated with red, create a serene atmosphere.