Colin, Jean Baptiste Leopold (1881-1961)

Colin, Jean Baptiste Leopold (1881-1961)
Colin, Jean Baptiste Leopold (1881-1961)

Flemish artist Jean Baptiste Leopold Colin created visions of female beauty in glorious palettes of vibrant colour. With an impressionistic touch, his works remain popular for their vivacity, enthused with a great passion of feeling.

Colin was surrounded by the arts from an early age. His parents ran an auction house and antiques shop. No doubt the young Colin saw many examples of art whilst growing up. This was an interest that continued as he attended first a drawing school and then, as a young man, enrolled at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels. Here, he was tutored by Isidore Verheyden (1846-1905), an artist who would have a large influence on Colin.

Verheyden practised predominantly realist work, but he would experiment and infuse his work with impressionistic energy. Impressionism had been growing throughout the second half of the 19th century as a popular, and indeed a prevalent, style of art. Whilst, when it came to portraiture, it was not as marketable as the more established realist style, for artists the freedom of expression it offered was enticing. Colin in particular found it enthralling. He has been noted as a very zealous artist, often working his own feelings into the energy of his pieces.

The rapid, sudden brushstrokes of impressionism translated well his impassioned brush. In his many paintings of women, often featuring his muse and eventual wife Hortensia, Colin chisels beaming cheeks from a swath of vibrant colours. He conjures the folds of gathered skirts in suave brushstrokes, the gracious falling of hair. In the number of landscapes that he also executed there is the same vivacity. Sometimes he pushes the boat out further and experiments with the unrealistic flash of colours of fauvism. Country dales roll with magentas and deep purples, hot pink on his brush summoning up roiling grasses.

Commercially, Colin had to stick to more realist, less experimental paintings. Anything too shockingly experimental, which did not offer a clear and obvious representation of the sitter, would not sell well. These works, however, still retained his unique vivacity. There is a cheekiness to his sitters, as if Colin has gotten under their skin and understood what makes their heartbeat, their body tick. Painting was not simply about translation for him, but transcendence.

In building a successful career for himself as a portrait painter, Colin was also able to indulge in his more experimental works without the worry of having to sell them. His more conventional works have often been compared to his contemporary, Philippe Swyncop (1878-1949). These Colin often exhibited at both local and national exhibits. Many critics have praised Colin as being as eminent as other artists of the time such as James Ensor (1860-1949) and Rik Wouters (1882-1916). Indeed, Colin was the recipient of multiple awards, including the Grand Prix de Rome.

Following his death, Colin’s works have been featured in a book celebrating his life and work.


Born in Brussels, Belgium.


Studied at Anderlecht drawing school.


Began studying at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Brussels.


Won the ‘Grand Prize for landscape painting’ at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Brussels.


Awarded the ‘Painting Medal’ at the Brussels International Exposition.


Married Hortensia Martens.


Died in Ixelles, Belgium.

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