Oil on wood
6 x 8 inches (15.2 x 20.3 cm.)
Framed: 11 x 12 1/2 inches
Signed: Le Sidaner
Private collection, USA
This work will be included in the forthcoming supplement to the Henri le Sidaner catalogue raisonne, Le Sidaner- l’oeuvre peint et grave, being prepared by Yann Farinaux-le Sidaner. This painting is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by Yann Farinaux-le Sidaner and dated February 2013.
Historians have frequently described Le Sidaner’s work in terms of musicality and silence. Always in a ‘minor key,’ its subtle harmonies are seen to evoke a wistful mood that is intensified, as Paul Signac notes, by the absence of figures: “His oeuvre displays a taste for tender, soft and silent atmospheres. Gradually, he even went so far as to eliminate all human presence from his pictures, as if he feared that the slightest human form might disturb their muffled silence” (Y. Farinaux- Le Sidaner, op cit., p. 31).
After spending the first years of his life in the West Indies, Henri Le Sidaner returned to France with his family in 1872. He began art studies in 1877 with the history painter Alexandre Desmit in Dunkerque, and in 1882 entered Alexandre Cabanel’s atelier at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. From 1882 to 1893, Le Sidaner often retreated to Etaples. The stern coastal landscape of the northern town appealed to the young artist, who suffered under the Ecole’s dictum of copying pictures in the Louvre. Le Sidaner explained that “Etaples-that is to say, Nature-revived me,” and that city provided many themes for his plein-air works.
Le Sidaner began exhibiting at the Salon des Artistes Francais in 1887. His naturalistic figural groups set in Etaples were well received and won him trips to Italy and Holland in 1891. Three years later, he exhibited Impressionist works influenced by Monet at the less conservative Societe Nationale des Beaux-Arts. From around 1896 to the end of the century, Le Sidaner painted Symbolist themes in which pensive, virginal women dressed in white inhabit dimly lit gardens. In these paintings, which recall the early canvases of his friend Henri Martin, Le Sidaner initiated the aura of mystery and the Divisionist technique characteristic of his late work.
After the turn of the century, Le Sidaner rarely portrayed the human figure. Instead, he depicted provincial setting in Bruges, Beauvais, and Chartres, and urban areas such as London and Venice. Images of the gardens and interior of his home in Gerberoy, where he resided from 1901 or 1902, also are prevalent in later works. He did, however, often imply human presence in a set table or an open book, adding to the intimate yet mysterious quality of his painting.
Like his close friends Henri Martin and Ernest Laurent, Le Sidaner was only tenuously associated with Neo-Impressionism and tempered its techniques with an otherwise traditional approach. He enjoyed continued favor, and from 1897 was regularly honored with solo shows not only in Paris, but also in London, Brussels, and the United States. In 1930 he was made a professor at the Academie des Beaux-Arts, replacing Ernest Laurent, and was named its president in 1937.
Le Canal Claire de Lune is a lovely example of Le Sidaner’s work. The loose brushwork, muted colors, and the reflection of the small houses in the canal directly below them lend the painting a surreal, dream-like quality. The panel is in wonderful condition. It was painted in August 1903, in Berneval (Normandy), most likely as a tribute to Oscar Wilde who died in Paris 3 years earlier. After two years in prison in England for homosexuality, Wilde stayed in Berneval in 1897 and wrote his last work, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol”. Our painting also served as a study for two larger works, one of which is housed in the Leeds City Art Gallery, and the other at Vestlandske Kunstindustrimuseum Bergen in Norway.