Théo van Rysselberghe: In July before Noon (Family in the Garden) – 1890

Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo, Netherlands

Five women are enjoying a summer morning in the spacious garden of a country house. A dreamlike atmosphere pervades the painting – one woman seems to glide like an automaton across the sward, others are seated engaged in sewing; the lady in the pink dress stares into the distance. They seem to be immersed in her own reverie. None of them make eye contact with each other and indeed the viewer is unable to do so because the artist has obscured all of the their faces in one way or another. The influence of Symbolism, enthusiastically espoused by a number of contemporary Belgian artists who exhibited together with van Rysselberghe at Les XX, can be felt here. The woman who is half concealed behind a tree betrays another influence – the artist invokes photography as he replicates the ‘imperfection of the snatched moment’.

The gathering is taking place in the garden of a house in Thuin, a few kilometres from Brussels, which had been rented by van Rysselberghe’s mother-in-law. Despite the fact the the women’s faces are obscured it has been possible to identify two of the group. The women in the pink dress holding her hat behind her chair is Irma Sèthe, a family friend. The artist’s wife, Maria-Philomène Monnom is sitting beside Irma in a blue dress.

The beautiful modulation in the passages of many different greens together with the precise pointillist technique produce a perfect evocation of dappled sunlight through trees.

Text by Geoffrey Smith

Artist Information

Contemporary Works

1890: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec: At the Moulin Rouge: The Dance, Philadelphia Museum of Art

1890: Henri Rousseau: The Customs Post,London, Courtauld Institute Galleries

Image: Kröller-Müller, Otterlo, Netherlands>