A rare early example of French-Mauritian artist Henri Le Sidaner's famously seductive nocturne paintings, this poetic riverside scene represents a turning point in his career, when he discovered how to...
A rare early example of French-Mauritian artist Henri Le Sidaner's famously seductive nocturne paintings, this poetic riverside scene represents a turning point in his career, when he discovered how to successfully capture the atmosphere and mysticism of gloaming light.
Demonstrating much talent in his youth, Le Sidaner was granted a place at the prestigious École nationale supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris. However, he fundamentally disagreed with the rigid academic teachings of the school and those of his teacher Alexandre Cabanel, and in 1885 resigned on the grounds of "artistic differences." Le Sidaner retreated to the small village of Étaples in northern France to focus on his artistic training in solitude. This attitude of rebellion, experimentation and discovery would remain with Le Sidaner throughout his career.
The summer of 1896 was particularly experimental for Le Sidaner. Whilst staying with his sister and brother-in-law in Montreuil-Bellay, he became fascinated with nocturne painting - capturing the silent, mystic moments at dusk, when the world is not yet completely shrouded in darkness. Undocumented since 1897, when it was last seen on the walls of Galerie Mancini in Paris, Soir is one of the works created that summer. Despite resisting classification, his works of this period display subtle Symbolist tendencies, Soir included.
Symbolist ideals rebelled against naturalism and objectivism, desiring to externalise the 'subjective interior' of the artist through their work. Le Sidaner had moved from Étaples back to Paris in 1894, and befriended writers, poets, musicians and artists of the movement, such as Edmond Aman-Jean and Henri Martin. His neighbour was Symbolist composer Gabriel Fabre, for whom Le Sidaner designed musical score covers. Le Sidaner was unmistakably influenced by this company, as evidenced by Soir, in which he seems to be utilising the conventions of painting to convey his inner state of serenity. His study and use of colour was not for the ultimate purpose of capturing the effects of light like it was for the Impressionists, but it was rather a tool for Le Sidaner to evoke a feeling in his work. The motif of the single burning lamp is one that he would use frequently throughout his career. Its warm, diffused light acts as a symbol of human presence, indicating that there is life, without disturbing the quiet atmosphere.
Soir exemplifies Le Sidaner's masterful ability to paint a veil of velvety shadow over a world, his signature light burning in the open window evoking a tumult of emotion in the viewer - loneliness and peace, and warmth on a cool, quiet night.
Accompanied by a photo certificate of authenticity from Yann Farinaux-Le Sidaner.