Jenny Montigny (1875 - 1937)
For the first twenty years of her life, Jenny Montigny was subject to the typical middle-class upbringing of a moneyed milieu. She had been fascinated since childhood by art and-against the will of her father-did everything possible to achieve this goal. She discovered her great role model at the end of 1892/beginning of 1893 in the Ghent Museum for the Fine Arts: full of admiration, she stood before the painting De Ijsvogels by Emile Claus that had just been purchased by the City. From 1895, she regularly visited Villa Zonneschijn, Claus’ atelier in Astene, to follow free lessons there. In 1904, she exchanged bourgeois Ghent for an independent, uncertain existence in Villa Rustoord in Deurle. After her debut at the Ghent Exhibition in 1902, she exhibited in Paris already the following year. For many years she was a conspicuous presence at the exhibitions of the Société des Beaux-Arts, and participation also brought with it success: already in 1906, the French state-long before a Belgian museum would do so-purchased a painting of hers at the Salon des Indépendants. Montigny integrated herself easily into contemporary art life. She was active in the luminist artists association Vie et Lumière. She often participated in expositions in Brussels, among others at the Waux-Hall of the Cercle Artistique et Littéraire (1904). Already in these early pieces, the Ghent periodical La Tribune Artistique discovered the immense value of her work: “Let us establish that everything radiates youth: illusion, charm, joie de vivre. The spring has its say, the sun, the light, a pleasant atmosphere, nature in celebration. This young and already very clever artist sees, understands and gives expression to this.” Montigny also displayed her work at the triennial exhibitions in Antwerp, Brussels and Ghent. In addition, she was a regular guest of the Ghent Arts and Letters Circle. She spent the years of the First World War in London. She was active in among others the Women’s International Art Club. The war years, however, were a financial catastrophe; back in Deurle she was forced to sell her house. A smaller house on Pontstraat in Deurle followed; she had to house her atelier on Dorpsstraat. Sint-Jozef school was nearby. Here she was able to study her favourite subject undisturbed: the romping children of Deurle. However, the financial problems continued. Claus helped her on more than one occasion; after his death, she received support from her sister. In any case, this material uncertainty indicates that there were few buyers available for her work during the interwar period. Montigny disappeared a bit from the Ghent scene in the years between the two world wars; she only sporadically took part in the exhibitions of the local Cercle Artistique et Littéraire. Repeated individual exhibitions indicate that Brussels appealed to her more. Montigny’s exhibitions attracted attention and her work was regularly well received in the press. Somewhat estranged from the artistic milieu, in 1937 she died in her house on Pontstraat in Deurle.