Modest Huys


Flemish landscape

Circa 1909
Oil on canvas
65.5 x 77.5 cm
Framed: 97.5 x 85.5
Signed lower right: Modest Huys
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- Chabot, G. & G. d'Aconti, "Modest Huys," in: Gand Artistique, Art et Esthéique, no. 7 (Gand: Dutry-Colson, Juillet 1928), p. 121-140.
- Huys, R. & P., Kunstschilder Modest Huys (s.l.: Oranje, 1987).
- De Smet, J., "Modest Huys (1874-1932). Een kunstenaar van het landelijk leven," 4 vol., onuitgegeven licentiaatsverhandeling (Gent: UGent, 1993).
- De Smet, J. & V. Van Doorne, Modest Huys, tent. cat. (Deinze/Gent: MuDeL/SD&Z-Pandora, 1999).
- De Smet, J., Sint-Martens-Latem en de Kunst aan de Leie 1870-1970 (Tielt/ Sint-Martens-Latem: Lannoo/ Art Book Company, 2000), p. 117-129.
Modeste Huys had much in common with his mentor, Emile Claus. From humble origins, inspired by his Flemish surroundings, Huys rose to become a highly successful and respected artist.

The clues to Huys' success can be found in his earliest exchanges with Claus, whom he met and consulted as an enthusiastic teenager. Huys was determined to succeed; Claus would stress the misery of the great masters, Rembrandt, Millet, Daumier, Rousseau, only to instill his own tenacity into the younger man. Huys, from the first, strove to reveal the unique properties of his Flemish surroundings. Claus wished him to capture the mood of their beloved region without relying simply on colour:
'Pas de peinture! Pas de peinture! Dessinez. Dessinez sans cesse. Dessinez à en perdre haleine. Copiez la nature ; ne fuyez pas le détail au début. Copiez sans aucune autre préoccupation que de rendre exactement et complètement ce que vous voyez...'

Huys more than satisfied Claus ; when the great counsellor told the young man that he had achieved in two months the progress of two years, or exclaimed 'Vous êtes un luministe né!’ Huys' pleasure must have been supreme.

This ‘Flemish landscape (Koppenberg)’ was painted in c. 1909, after Huys had undergone a period of Academic training and by which time he was well established as a Flemish luminist artist. Yet the spontaneous, intimate quality of his earliest unschooled work that so excited Claus. It is clear why Claus was not concerned about the artist's eye for colour; his palette is ever bright, warm and optimistic. The mottled pink he used for this landscape and atmosphere was a rare colour scheme with Huys, perhaps indebted to the tall, pink roofs of Flemish houses. Nature and man's works combine amicably. The tempered daylight is thrown over the whole composition, expressed through the delicate brush strokes that reveal Huys' loose application of Neo-Impressionist techniques. Following Claus' advice, Huys always painted what he saw, with affection and veracity, using different Impressionistic techniques to further these ends. (Sarah Polden)
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Flemish landscape