Theo van Rysselberghe painted Paysage avec Maisons in 1894, while spending the summer in the seaside resort of Knokke, Belgium, with his fatherly friend Camille Pissarro. Pissarro stayed there with his son Félix for three and a half months, avoiding the precarious political situation in France, after the assassination of President Sadi Carnot by an anarchist on June 24, 1894. Pissarro, who had been affiliated with the anarchist- communist movement, had found his name on a list of 100 suspects, and escaped the country the following day.
The charming village of Knokke, with its vast beaches, its low-slung peasant houses, huddled in the sand dunes, had been a favourite retreat for Belgian artist since the 1880s , its open skies with its brilliant light, reflected by the sea, and the distinctive landscape appealed to both Pissarro and Rysselberghe, and they produced several paintings there between July and September 1894.
Camille Pissarro, The Village of Knocke, 1894,
Petit Palais, Paris
Rysselberghe’s Paysage Avec Maison is rigorously executed in Pointillist style, exhibiting small dots of complementary colours, creating vibrant, luminous effects. It shows a group of unassuming peasant houses in the dunes, before a mirror-flat hinterland and a small silhouette of a windmill on the vast horizon. A group of four figures can be seen in the foreground. The palette is mainly limited to blue, purple, green and yellow, with a few dabs of red for the roofs of the houses. The summer sky is dotted with clouds, glowing in the mid-day sunlight.
Théo van Rysselberghe had started his career as a realist painter and had later moved to an Impressionist style. He had first encountered French Neo-Impressionism in 1886, viewing Seurat’s La Grande-Jatte in Paris (today in the The Art Institute of Chicago), where he had traveled with his friend, the Belgian poet Emile Verhaeren. The work had a lasting impression on Rysselberghe, and he left Paris with the determination to introduce Neo-Impressionism to Belgian art. At the same time, he had befriended Paul Signac, inviting him to exhibit in the Salon of ‘Les XX’ in Brussels in 1887. Both artists shared a passion for sailing and repeatedly worked together. Rysselberghe continued to exercise the Divisionist technique until the end of the first decade of the 20th century.
1 D. Lannoy, F. Devinck and Th. Thomas, Impressionists in Knocke & Heyst 1870-1914, Oostkamp, 2007.