The White Garden at Gerberoy (Le jardin blanc)
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The White Garden at Gerberoy (Le jardin blanc)

Stephen Ongpin Fine Art

Date 1912

Period Early 20th century

Medium Pencil and coloured pencil on buff paper

Dimension 25 x 35.6 cm (9⁷/₈ x 14 inches)

Drawn in 1912, the present sheet depicts one of Henri Le Sidaner's favourite subjects; his house at Gerberoy, which he once described as his ‘haven of peace’. The artist had first visited the village of Gerberoy in 1901, at the suggestion of Auguste Rodin, and soon purchased a house there, creating a large garden that provided him with a myriad of subjects and motifs for his paintings. Le Sidaner often depicted the gardens and the façade of the house, studying the tonal effects and play of light at various times of day and in different seasons. As Camille Mauclair wrote, ‘The house is relatively constant, despite the changes in appearance which the seasons may bring. However, the thoughts and sensibilities of the man who inhabits and loves this place are constantly renewed – and this is why the subject is never monotonous. The pictures Le Sidaner paints in Gerberoy are, more than any others, expressions of his moods. And the way he presents these moods, varying them indefinitely, is the pictorial result of his talent for arrangement, for fitting the scene to the frame – this is a talent he possesses to the highest degree.’ Like most of the artist’s landscapes and town scenes, the views of the house at Gerberoy are almost always devoid of figures.

This drawing is a finished preparatory study for Le Sidaner’s large painting Le jardin blanc au crépuscule of 1912, which was acquired, the year after it was painted, by the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique in Brussels. The painting depicts the so-called white garden, decorated with white flowers, that was created by the artist soon after he acquired the property at Gerberoy: ‘At the top of the four steps facing the house…Le Sidaner designed a white garden in which a small, rectangular lawn, lined with gravel paths, was surrounded by weeping rose tries and carnations. The enclosed, fragrant terrace was especially beguiling at twilight…The glory of the white garden was to be fleeting; the rose trees were decimated in the harsh winter of 1917 and replaced by hardier species with longer blooming periods.’ Also preparatory for the Brussels painting is a slightly larger oil sketch on panel of the same composition, which was in a private collection in 1989.

The present sheet was given by Le Sidaner to Gabriel Viaud, called Jean Viaud-Bruant (1865-1948), a noted French horticulturalist, flower breeder and garden designer from Poitiers who was also a collector of modern art. This drawing was used as the cover of the fifth edition of Viaud-Bruant’s book Les Peintres-Jardiniers, in which the author writes of the subject: ‘The profound artist Le Sidaner created a White Garden, solely composed of white flowers, in his Thebaid of Gerberoy (Oise); there he produced paintings of great merit in the evening, at dusk and in the moonlight. This philosopher is the type of the painter-poet...His thought is condensed in a brushstroke, in the placement of a hue; he paints like a visionary, a rare quality. The wall of his house are walls behind which something happens, and what an intense feeling of intimacy, what an extraordinary caress of soft light is spread everywhere! Le Sidaner seduces us like a poet, because he has likewise the gift of fleeting images, the same richness, the same colourful inventiveness, the same luminous quivering, the same intuition, to which he adds the glow and the phosphorescence of the world. A painter-poet is one who thinks and expresses himself in colour.’

Date: 1912

Period: Early 20th century

Medium: Pencil and coloured pencil on buff paper

Signature: Signed and dedicated a M Viaud / amicalement / LE SIDANER at the lower left.

Dimension: 25 x 35.6 cm (9⁷/₈ x 14 inches)

Provenance: Presented by the artist to Gabriel (Jean) Viaud-Bruant, Poitiers
Galerie Paule Cailac, Paris
Galleries Maurice Sternberg, Chicago
Worthington Gallery, Chicago, in 1979
Elaine and Perry Snyderman, Highland Park, Illinois.

Literature: Jean Viaud-Bruant, Jardins d’artistes: Les Peintres-Jardiniers, Poitiers, 1916 [5th ed.], illustrated on the cover and also between pp.38 and 39; Yann Farinaux-Le Sidaner, Le Sidaner: L’oeuvre peint et gravé, Paris, 1989, p.337, no.1025.

Exhibition: Possibly Paris, Musée Galliera, Rétrospective Henri Le Sidaner, April 1948; Chicago, Galleries Maurice Sternberg, 19th and 20th Century Masters, 1976.

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Stephen Ongpin Fine Art

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