1848 Anvers - 1923 Paris
Oil on panel
14 x 45, 5 cm
Dedicated, signed and dated « à monsieur owdenko g. croegaert paris 1890 »
Georges Croegaert was a Belgian academic painter and trained at the Antwerp School of Fine Arts. In 1876 he settled permanently in Paris. He exhibited irregularly at the Salon of Paris between 1882 and 1914, as well as at the Salon of French Artists, and in Vienna in 1888. Influenced by the contemporary painter Jan Van Beers (1852- 1927) he adopts a miniaturist style. Croegaert is appreciated by English and American admirers for his many portraits of elegant women and for his genre scenes, where he is depicting socialites in their daily lives (Fig.1). The titles of his paintings - Reflection (1891), Meditation (1893), Reverie (1894) - testify his interest in intimate subjects. In the manner of François Brunery (1849-1926), Jean Vibert (1840-1902), José Frappa (1854-1904) or Andrea Landini (1847-1912), A large number of works by this painter are now preserved in the collections of Anglo-Saxon museums.
Our composition is dated 1890 and is dedicated to a certain Mr. Owdenko (a Russian art lover active in Paris in the late nineteenth century) and shows skaters converging on a frozen lake. This type of winter landscape, which refers to the Nordic origins of the painter, is echoed among some his Belgian contemporaries: Henri van Seben (1825-1913), Adolf Dillens (1821-1877), or Emile Clauss (1849-1924) have also effectively illustrated this theme (Fig.2).
Our panel, however, differs from the usual style of the artist, who usually prefers a more bucolic summer or spring landscape which serves as a backdrop in the paintings for his delicate and elegant figures (Fig. 3).
In an exceptional way, Croegaert abandons in our panel the bright colours he usually uses (as regard to the carmine red of his cardinals) and privileges here a discreet chromatism by reducing his palette to shades of browns and greys. The twilight sky allows us to place the scene as being at the end of the afternoon. The flat treatment of a frozen lake and snow-covered shoreline, painted with great economy of means, contrasts with the meticulousness and finesse exerted for the dead trees. The characters, summarily represented, seem to be enveloped in silence, dream and meditation. Even the action of the skaters rushing onto the ice seem rare and measured. In the foreground, on the bank, two men are seen from behind: one wearing a top hat, the other a beret. One can imagine that the painter represented himself here in the company of the dedicatee of the work, Monsieur Owdenko, as spectators to the scene, contemplating the skaters' dance in a sort of mise en abyme. Croegaert transcribes, in this atypical very elongated format, a peaceful atmosphere, almost melancholy, showing a synthetic recount close to the symbolist aesthetics.
Essay by Amélie du Closel
Fig. 1 Georges Croegaert, Portrait of a Lady, 32,5 x 24,5 cm, Accrington (UK), private collection
Fig. 2 Émile Claus (1849-1924), The Skaters, 1891, canvas, 148,5 x 205 cm, Gand, Mueeum voor Schone Kunsten
Fig. 3 Georges Croegaert, The Summer House, s.d., panel, 16,2 x 45,2 cm, New York, Christie's, sale 15 february 1995