Private collection, Belgium
P. Boyens, H. Bosschaert, Léon De Smet, 1994, pp. 153-156, 246
Though painted in a recognisably expressive mode, the artist’s generous application of paint, combined with a palate of astonishing intensity, lends this painting a luminous, almost visionary quality. While the painting captures a traditional scene of natural beauty – the sun descending through a cloudless sky, casting warm light on a peaceful village – the central positioning of the sun, the vertical motifs of the trees and church tower, and the sharply veering road produce an image that subverts the expectations of the genre. Rather than evoke the soft, sensual mood of an idealised evening, the artist here asserts the almost violent forcefulness of sunlight.
The painting dates from the period in which the artist had begun to experiment with burlap, following his move to London in 1914, on the outbreak of World War One. While de Smet’s use of discrete dashes of impasto colour does indeed recall Post-Impressionism, he allows the rough texture of the burlap beneath to ‘breathe’ through the image, producing a painting that appears to vibrate with light. While de Smet’s compositional techniques and subject matter recall his French contemporaries, such as Henri Martin, the density – and intensity – of his technique are highly distinctive.