Moeder en kind
The Van Abbemuseum Collection consists of over 2800 artworks. We publish texts and images on an ongoing basis, but this record is currently in the process of being documented.
This painting by the Belgian artist Gust de Smet shows the corner of a room with a woman seated on a chair. Behind her there is a girl holding a doll in her arms and both the characters are shown in a very stylized way. The woman’s head is oval and her eyes are large and high up in her face. She does not have any ears. The outlines of her left arm and hand continue in her right arm and form an oval together with the shoulders and the breasts are shown as circles. The girl is holding her left arm in the same way as her mother and her hair is represented in a single simple form. Her mouth, like her mother’s, is sharply defined. The work is painted in earthy colours with occasional strokes of black. There is no central light source and the space is not constructed in accordance with the laws of a central perspective. The characters are viewed from the front; the floor more or less from above.
The combination of perspectives and the diagrammatic representation of the characters reveal the influence of Cubism, but for De Smet it was not only the formal structure of the image that is important. This serves only as a means to show the true content of the painting – the emotion which it evokes and reflects. De Smet deliberately rejected a realistic representation of a theme. In 1923 he said that “the visual imitation of nature can greatly impede pure expression.” His work can be classified as expressionist art. His interest in the ordinary life of simple people is shared with other Belgian artists such as Permeke and Brusselmans. This subject, like the use of earthy colours, is characteristic of Flemish Expressionism.
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