Belgian artists responded to Impressionism by doing something rather different than their French neighbors, their brushwork more subdued, their effects more akin perhaps to photography. It has been called Luminism, and it has its counterpart in America that goes by the same name. One characteristic they share is the strength of their work compared to the blandness of their compatriots who tried to copy the French.
It is the quality of the light that attracts me to these paintings by the Belgian Emile Claus (1849-1934). In the 1880s, Claus bought a cottage in Astene, near Ghent, where he lived for the rest of his life. He called it 'Villa Sunshine' in recognition the inspiration he took from the quality of light there.
The artist found something remarkable in the old tree, painting it repeatedly, even breaking the rule that he probably taught his own students: never put your subject directly at the center of the image. Yet Claus persuades us as he makes light gather around the tree in The Artist's House at Astene, reflecting off the house, or as the tree in The Tree In Autumn appears to draw the fading light of autumn into itself with its intense need.
1. Emile Claus - The Tree In The Sun, 1900, Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent.
2. Emile Claus - The Artist's House At Astene, 1906, Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent.
3. Emile Clause - Rayon de Soleil, April 1899, Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent.