The Afternoon Visit, ca. late 1800's
Gustave Léonard de Jonghe was born on February 4, 1829, in western Belgium. After training in Brussels he moved to Paris to further his career, where he would spend time back and forth between the two cities. De Jonghe's style evolved from a more academic Realism to Orientalism and into genre paintings of women, especially with children. Although often criticized for his sentimentality, de Jonghe still had a firm grasp of his subjects with a strong naturalism, an eye for texture and pattern, and a vibrant palette. Often compared to Alfred Stevens, another brilliant and respected genre painter from Belgium, De Jonghe continued the tradition using his own palette and eye for body language.
In The Afternoon Visit above he seems to channel Sargent. The opulence and grandeur of the 19th century is depicted in a relaxed, airy naturalism. De Jonghe also captures the frilly dresses and all of its intricacies with ease. This young child fondly kisses her favourite aunt on the cheek after lunch, while mother appears to be holding a sheet of a colorful image the child may have worked on or was a gift. A doll lies on its back on the floor. Off to the right the women's belongings are loosely gathered on the chair against the wall. I just love the colour and temperature harmonies here...de Jonghe uses the warmth of the giant painting or tapestry behind them to contrast with the tinted violet and pinks of their dresses. Love the shimmery blues of that sofa they are sitting on. Note the large blue vase with the plant in the right foreground. The area rug beneath them is a muted pattern that somehow combines all of the colors in this painting. Using opulence to depict a very simple theme here shows something despite a certain sentimentality...presence. We feel like we just entered the room and walked in on them. Timeless.
Mother with her Young Daughter, 1865
De Jonghe continues the above theme here in a very spontaneous and fun painting. Love the contrast in body language between the graceful mother and her playful young child, fanning herself while grinning at us. Another massive tapestry on the wall behind them, and a unique easel with piles of yarn and another colored drawing. This time the sofa is a warm pinky orange. I admire how De Jonghe painted the mother's dress in a very warm grey and those shimmering highlights, while making her blouse transparent. The child wears the same color of blue in her shoes as the headband and sash of her mother. Dejonghe paints them in a warm light, and even though the area rug on the floor is of an ornate pattern, the overall mood is very soft and tender. Dejonghe clearly loved children and had a family of his own, and here he paints these two as if they are his very own family.
Girl With a Rose, ca. 1800's
This is a painting that appears at first sight overly sentimental, but look deeper. Love the carefree expression and body language here. This young woman appears to be gazing into a full-length mirror, holding a rose possibly given to her by an admirer or taken from the bouquet from the table beside her. Look at the brushwork in the dress. Beautiful greys and shades of white that follow the form of her body. Her face is the most refreshing quality, a true expression of appreciation and happiness, not vanity at all...fully present in the moment. De Jonghe is showing us real self-appreciation, a rare occurence in art and a beautiful moment in time captured forever.
Practicing, ca. late 1800's
Once again the theme of playing the piano, a very popular one amongst 19th century artists I have covered here. However, while most artists I've seen depict the piano teacher falling for the student, here we see something more banal and amusing. The teacher or mother sleeping quietly as the young woman plays and a very young boy on the rug attempts to read sheet music. Graceful brushstrokes on the student's dress. And I absolutely love the subtle reflection of that dress on the shiny piano itself, in very cool grey tones...a brilliant touch:
The palette here is quite interesting in that it consists of greens and yellows against the deep brown of the piano...and the every present multi-colored area rug in every single painting De Jonghe does. I love the way he suggests the floral motif on the wallpaper in a very cool gray green. The narrative here is simple yet intriguing the more you look at it.
Love Letter, 1867
This is an usual color palette. A copper-colored and black dress side-by-side, against a striped-blue and gold sofa. Again, the green floral motif on the wall is more ornate this time. The body language is so relaxed here and inviting, especially in the woman in black. Take a closer look at the way De Jonghe pays close attention to facial expression:
and the details of the dress and her hand:
This is brushwork directly inspired by Velázquez.
And the beautiful feminine gaze here, challenging the viewer:
Look at the juicy brushstrokes of those blue and gold stripes beside her...
De Jonghe took the Classicism of the past and combined it with the sensibility of the 19th century woman as independent and intelligent, yet always graceful. Although lost in the shadow of artists such as Sargent and Sorolla nowadays, De Jonghe deserves a second look as an observer and painter of women as beautiful in every sense of the word. Bravo, De Jonghe...