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Henri Le Sidaner was born in Port Louis, Mauritius and spent his early years with his family in the West Indies before they returned to their native France in 1872. He first studied art with the historical painter Alexandre Desmit in 1877 and then, with artist Alexandre Cabanel, from 1882 at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. While at the Ecole, Le Sidaner often retreated to Etaples on the northern coast of France, where he felt released from the Ecole's strict routine of copying art in the Louvre Museum. In 1887 Le Sidaner's figurative paintings set in Etaples were exhibited at the Salon des Artistes Francais. They were well received, and by 1891 the Salon had awarded him a bronze medal. After 1900 Le Sidaner moved to Beauvais, 45 miles north of Paris, and within a couple of years he settled nearby at the picturesque hill-top village of Gerberoy. Although he had such a personal style of painting, many followers were attracted to Gerberoy and the village soon became re-populated as a colony of artists with Le Sidaner reluctantly at its head.Le Sidaner's art was greatly admired, and by 1897 he exhibited regularly in one-man shows in Paris, London, Brussels and the United States. In 1930 he was knighted with the Legion d'Honneur and elected a member of the Academie des Beaux-Arts. He died in Versailles in 1939. Le Sidaner is also often referred to as a Symbolist, though his work largely stops short of the overt imagery of those painters, content with an enigmatic feeling of absence, as human figures are only rarely present in his paintings. Perhaps he is closest to being an Intimist – an artist who captures the light and atmosphere of fleeting moments with rich but toned down colour, although this is a vague definition in itself. He also built a following in Britain and America during this time for his paintings of domesticated nature. His seductive views of the gardens he created in the ruins of the medieval fortress at Gerberoy, with their recently vacated tables dappled in sunlight and overhung by roses, would cement his reputation as a unique and unclassifiable artist. He worked in the realist style, but his love of penumbra and twilight create a poetic and dreamy quality to his technical expertise. There is also undoubtedly an influence of optics on Le Sidaner's work. The atmosphere of his paintings, whether they are landscapes or still lifes result from both his delicate style of painting and his choice of subjects.


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