Theodoor Verstraete

Nocturne

Theodoor Verstraete

Nocturne

This late 19th-century oil painting by Belgian artist Theodoor Verstraete (1850-1907) depicts a gentle nocturnal view under a shimmering moon.

Abundant with impasto, the moon radiates a broad glow illuminating the sky with a silvery gradient. Several vessels bob quietly on tranquil water.

To appreciate the skill in this painting, you need to first consider what it isn’t. Nocturnes are a challenging subject and can often veer towards sentimentality or overly romantic interpretations. But here, Verstraete is painting what he saw without embellishment. He selects a composition with the dominant moon off-centre yet produces a balanced image by rendering the reflections between the boats in the foreground.

Note also the orange highlights on the shore and sail, which create a triangle when viewed with the stripe of orange reflection. These, in turn, guide the eye outwards via a diagonal line of silhouetted vessels. Quite an accomplishment given the prominence of the moon.

Verstraete was a thoughtful artist who saw beauty where others didn’t. He worked in the difficult space between reality and imagination. Drawing out nature’s natural beauty while avoiding contrivance.

Signed in the lower right and held within its original gilt frame.

Medium: Oil on canvas
Overall size: 25½” x 22” / 65cm x 56cm
Year of creation: c. 1880
Condition: Artwork presents well. Craquelure but the paint is stable. The blue marks towards the moon appear to be part of the composition and are not paint loss. Frame with some light wear.
Artist’s auction maximum: £10,472

Theodoor Verstraete

Theodoor Verstraete

Theodoor Verstraete trained at the Antwerp Academy under Jacob Jacobs and was one of the 20 original members of the group of the 'Les XX'. The inaugural exhibition of Les XX included works by Auguste Rodin, James Abbott McNeill Whistler and Max Liebermann. He exhibited at the Salons of Antwerp and Paris, winning medals at both, and his works are held in numerous public collections including at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium.

Learn more about Theodoor Verstraete in our directory.

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