HENRI LE SIDANER (1862 - 1939)


Henri Le Sidaner was born to Breton parents in 1862 at Port Louis in Mauritius, where he developed an interest for drawings early on. His father was an inspector at the French Lloyd and correspondent of the Véritas Bureau. His family returned to France in 1872 and settled in Dunkirk, where he began his art studies under A.Desmit.

In 1882, Le Sidaner was enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts and, in 1884, he studied the instruction of Alexandre Cabanel, who always supported him in his artistic endeavours.

When Henri moved to Etaples on the Côte d'Opale, he discovered impressionist paintings. At the Salon of 1882, he was overwhelmed by two paintings from Manet: "Le Printemps" and "Un bar aux Folies-Bergère".

That same year, he discovered the paintings of Claude Monet and his friends which encouraged him to start painting with the same technique, depicting the small port of Etaples. "It is a place of noble character," he wrote "with beautiful single lines, harmonious horizons of water and dunes, to some extent this severe place that our great Cazin immortalised".

Between 1885 and 1894, Le Sidaner spent all year round at Etaples' art colony and was joined there by his childhood friend Eugène Chigot (1860-1923), who shared his interest in atmospheric light. Le Sidaner also travelled extensively throughout France and visited many cities around the globe and in 1894, moved to Paris, rue Émile Allez.

1896 marks a turning point in his work. The symbolist inspiration of his subjects boosts a renewed interest for light. More than the subject itself, it is the specific surrounding luminosity that the painter attempts to capture. During this period of intense creative activity, Le Sidaner's taste for light effects focuses on light-dark and twilight tones. By gradually discarding diffuse gleams of gray, blue and pearled white, he revealed juxtaposed touches of greens, pinks, reds or purples.

Henri Le Sidaner died in 1939 in Paris. Throughout his career, his major concern remained light effects. To this extent, he taught his students that no landscape must be painted without the light effect which emphasises it. He exhibited at the Salon, the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris, and held his first solo show in 1905 at the Goupil Gallery, London.

Prehaps Marcel Proust's note on Le Sidaner's work in his novel "In Search of Lost Time" best attests of the artist's flourishing later reputation. Similarly, in Sodom and Gomorrah, the author mentionned that an eminent barrister from Paris had devoted his income to collecting the paintings of the "highly distinguished" Le Sidaner.

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