Emile Claus Belgium

9-27-1849 West-Flanders, BEL – 6-14-1924 Astene, BEL

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Claus, Emile

As a child, Emile Claus already loved drawing and on Sunday went three kilometres on foot to the Academy of Waregem to learn how to draw. He graduated from the Academy with a gold medal. Although father Claus allowed him to take drawing classes, he did not fancy an artist's career for his son. Instead, he sent Emile as a baker’s apprentice to Lille (France).

The urge to paint did not let go of Emile and he wrote a letter for help to the famous composer and musician Peter Benoit, who live in nearby Harelbeke and was an occasional visitor of the family. Only with some effort, Peter Benoit managed to convince father Claus to allow his son to train at the Antwerp Academy of Fine Arts. Emile Claus did have to pay for his studies himself though. After graduating, he stayed to live in Antwerp.

In 1883 Claus moved to cottage Zonneschijn in Astene, where he stayed until his death. From his living room, he enjoyed a beautiful view across the river Lys.

Artistically, Emile Claus soon prospered. As a celebrity, he became a friend of the family with amongst others the French sculptor Auguste Rodin and the naturalist Émile Zola. He travelled around the world to attend exhibitions of his work.

An important person in the life of Emile Claus was the painter Jenny Montigny. She followed master classes at his workshop in Astene and for years travelled back and forth between Ghent and Astene. Although Claus was 26 years older than she was, they began a relationship that would last until Claus' death.

The First World War interrupted Claus’ international success. He fled to London where he found a house and workshop at the banks of the river Thames. He returned in 1918.

One of the dignitaries was the Waregem notary Eduard Dufaux. At the notary's home, Emile got to know Eduard’s niece Charlotte Dufaux. They got married in 1886.

Under the influence of Claude Monet, he developed a style that has been characterized as luminism. In 1904, he started the artist group Vie et Lumière ('Life and Light').

In 1918, at his return from London after World War I and with the dawn of expressionism, Claus found his fame diminished. In 1921, he was given a last survey exhibition in Brussels, where especially his London works (about the city and the river Thames) made a positive impression on the public.

Stimulated by his friend, the author Camille Lemonnier, and influenced by the French impressionists, like Claude Monet whose works he got to know during his trips to Paris in the 1890s, Emile Claus gradually shifted from naturalistic realism to a very personal style of impressionism called 'luminism', because of the luminous palette he used. His paintings The Beet Harvest (1890) and The Ice Birds (1891) represent important turning points in this evolution.

Art Movement: Luminism
Influences: Jacob Jacobs, Claude Monet
Traveled: France, Algeria, England
From Wikipedia

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