Portrait de Marguerite, Soeur de L’Artiste, 1893

by Henri Eugene Augustin Le Sidaner

P.O.A.

DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 13 x 10 ins (33 x 25 cms)
SIGNATURE: Signed and dated lower left
MEDIUM: Oil with pastel highlights on panel

It appears that Le Sidaner’s portrait of his young sister is unique in his oeuvre, as records and a thorough examination of Yann Farineaux-Le Sidaner’s catalogue raisonné do not demonstrate another portrait by the artist that bears her name. It is known that earlier in his career Le Sidaner often painted portraits and figural landscapes, often with women dressed in white, and that these women were often depicted wearing white dresses as in Le Dimanche. In fact, Marguerite is shown wearing a whitish blue garment in this portrait with a wreath of flowers on the crown of her head. This circle of flowers may possibly represent the First Holy Communion of Marguerite, as traditionally young women in France would receive their First Communion during the first weekend in May with a wreath of flowers in their hair, and combined with her stoic pose again recalls Femme en prière. Allegorically, the wreath symbolizes new life, rebirth, virginity and purity.

Catalogue No: 5142 Categories: ,

Before the turn of the century and before signing his contract with Georges Petit Galleries in 1899, Henri Le Sidaner was prolifically creating genre scenes and pastel portraits.  It is during these initial years that he developed his “taste for tender, soft and silent atmospheres”.  The delicate nature of Portrait de Marguerite, soeur de l’artiste was purposeful; Le Sidaner strove to create environments within his paintings that reinforced quiet, stillness and often solitude.  The lines and gestural marks created by the pastels in this interpretation of his young sister Marguerite are a precursor to what Le Sidaner later developed into his distinct broken brushwork often compared to that of Georges Seurat.  The style and coloration of our portrait is a good example of the artist’s beginnings of Symbolism, and is comparable to Le Sidaner’s most famous Symbolist work from this time frame, Le Dimanche, that is currently housed in the Musée de Douai.   The same year that Le Sidaner painted our portrait, he traveled to Florence where he experienced the great Rinascimento frescos of Fra Angelico, and responded by painting Femme en prière, reproduced on page 57 of Yann Farineaux-Le Sidaner’s catalogue.  This portrait depicts a seated young girl in profile, quite possibly on her First Communion day.  She is remarkably similar to Le Sidaner’s interpretation of Marguerite; the features, pose and silent reflections of each girl mimic the other.

Provenance

Exposition Versailles / POTTIER, Emballeur / de Tableux & Objets d’art
41’ Exposition . . . 1894;
Connaught Brown, Fine Art Dealers;
Wolseley Fine Arts, London;
Private Collection, UK

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Biography

Henri Le Sidaner began his studies at the École des Beaux-Arts as an apprentice to Alexandre Cabanel in 1880.  Displeased with the school’s program he remained in the school for a very short time of only a few months and moved to Étaples, a small village near Pas-de-Calais.   It is while he was living in the village of Étaples that he painted Portrait de Marguerite, soeur de l’artiste and that he created his memorable, poetic and melancholy figural landscapes.  It is very lucky to have such a wonderful example of Le Sidaner’s earlier work, as much of his studies and pastels were destroyed by the Germans after the Second World War.  These included studies for larger paintings and intimate portraits of his family members and friends.  It is because of this tragedy that it is quite possible that our painting is the last existing representation by Le Sidaner of his sister Marguerite.

 

From 1892 – 1894 Le Sidaner travelled throughout Italy and Holland.  He returned to Paris in 1895 where he began mingling in Symbolist groups and became friends with Henri Martin and Ernest Laurent.  During the next few years Le Sidaner’s style and view towards his paintings changed dramatically and he almost completely excluded figures in his landscapes and still lifes from this point onward which strongly reinforced the tone of solitude and calm in his work.  These representations of gardens and interiors are highly desirable in the art market today, and include depictions of Le Sidaner’s garden and home in Gerberoy, as well as gardens in Chartres, Bruges, London, Venice and Beauvais.

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