Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Leon De Smet

A Girl by the Table
oil on canvas
116 x 81 cm
Private collection
Fair use

Leon de Smet (1881-1966) was born in the Belgian city of Ghent as the son of a photographer, playwright and ornamental painter. He enrolled in the Academy for the Fine Arts in Ghent in 1893, and he was a brilliant student. He was a follower of Emile Claus and the Luminist school, a group heavily influenced by the Impressionists.

By 1909 he was representing Belgium at the Venice Biennale and the following year his work was included in an international exhibition in Brussels along with that of Pierre Bonnard and James Ensor. His work was being favourably compared with that of Georges-Pierre Seurat and van Rysselberghe, a similarity in brushwork and tonality being clearly evident.

In 1914 at the beginning of the First World War, he moved to  London, settled in Tavistock Square, exhibiting at the Royal Academy and moving in an artistic and literary circle including George Bernard Shaw, William Orpen, Frank Brangwyn, John Galsworthy and Joseph Conrad. He rapidly acquired an international reputation. He gradually emerged as a welcome society figure. In spite of this success, however, from 1925 he focused entirely on Belgium. Beginning in 1932, he was especially active in the group Vlaanderen, which tried to support Belgian contemporary art. His work remained widely represented especially in the Ghent art scene. The Second World War years hardly affected him. After the war, the Ghent Museum for the Fine Arts organized a noteworthy personal exhibition in 1953. He was appointed commander of the Order of Leopold II in 1966.