This early 20th-century portrait by Belgian artist Charles Kvapil (1884-1957) demonstrates his early talent for figure painting. He was around 21 when he produced this piece, which was probably during his time at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp.
While honing their craft, Academy artists would often study the old masters first-hand at the major galleries. Here, we see a gentleman dressed in a 17th-century outfit that’s either Flemish or Dutch. Can you imagine how the young artist felt, surrounded by the impressive works of the Flemish masters? Diligently analysing their brushwork and technique.
Unlike many copies, this piece has spirit. The old bearded gent exudes knowledge - a man of much wisdom. He’s been faithfully portrayed in homage to the original creator.
From around 1910, Kvapil began to exhibit at notable salons and his style was distinctly more modernist that the old masters he studied. Later in his career, he became a solid contributor to the Parisian art scene and settled in Montmartre. It’s interesting to consider how his formal academic teachings gave him the foundations to experiment with modernist expression.
Signed and framed.
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Medium: Oil on panel
Overall size: 21½” x 25½” / 55cm x 64cm
Year of creation: c. 1905
Condition: Artwork presents well. Craquelure but the paint is stable. Frame with some light wear.
Artist’s auction highlight: £18,748 achieved for an oil painting in 2018.