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Gilles François Joseph Closson

(1796–1852, Liège)

A Wide Landscape in the Environs of Liège. Oil on paper, preliminary drawing in black chalk. 33 x 41.5 cm. Circa 1837.

The Belgian painter, watercolourist and draughtsman François Closson studied under Antoine Gros in Paris from 1817 to 1824. Between 1825 and 1829 Closson lived and worked in Italy, where he devoted himself to painting vedute, thereby attaining artistic maturity. For study purposes Closson created a considerable fund of landscape sketches in oil, done on the spot and in the open air, which betray a keen eye for the different quality of light and colour presented by southern landscapes (fig. 1 and 2). While the views of Rome and Naples done in the studio reflect a romantic view of nature, the oil sketches on paper owe their charm to the timeless freshness of their observation of nature and their subtle capture of fleeting natural phenomena. Many of these studies, which were intended either as artistic exercises or originals for paintings, are unfinished. The deliberate contrast between the fluid and hazy parts of the landscape, clouds and sky, on the one hand, and the parts that have just been left white, on the other, has a great aesthetic appeal and underlines the spontaneous character of these landscape impressions.

In 1837 Closson returned to Liège, where he was appointed professor at the Academy. The present study, which was probably produced shortly after this date, shows a panoramic view of a scenic landscape in the immediate vicinity of Liège. A row of gentle hills lies under a majestic autumn sky. A stiff wind is dra- matically billowing the passing clouds, chasing them across the peaceful landscape. Closson has brilliantly caught the play of the evening sunlight on them with a few thickly applied strokes of the brush. The river, which wends its way in gentle bends to the horizon, is probably the Meuse. The post-mill as well as the vegetation and staffage in the foreground are characterized summarily but effectively with a few chalk strokes.

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