Three Men in Conversation (c.1895)


Graphite on strong paper; signed lower right
In period black and gilt frame

58cm x 47cm in the frame


The James Dean or River Phoenix of the 19th century art world, Belgian artist Henri-Jacques-Edouard Evenepoel was one of the greatest artistic talents of his age yet died at just twenty-seven.

In October 1892 Evenepoel settled in Paris, completing his studies under Gustave Moreau at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, where he met and befriended Henri Matisse, a fellow student. Evenepoel exhibited for the first time in April 1894 at the Salon des Artistes Français in Paris, where he showed a portrait of his cousin Louise van Mattemburgh. He continued to paint a series of striking portraits, exhibiting four at the Salon de Champ-de-Mars in 1895, and indeed may be said to have been among the finest portrait painters of his time.

His star was rising vertiginously when one of art history’s most promising figures died from Typhoid Fever aged just twenty-seven. Retrospective exhibitions of Evenepoel’s work were held at the Galerie Georges Giroux in Brussels in 1913 and 1932, at the Musée Royal des Beaux-Arts in Antwerp in 1953 and at the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts in Brussels in 1972.

As the artist’s biographer Francis Hyslop has written, ‘For his contemporaries Evenepoel’s “modernism” consisted principally in his choice of subjects, and most modern painters were indiscriminately lumped together as “Impressionists”…Far from being an Impressionist, Evenepoel was actually a Realist in the line of Courbet, Daumier, Manet, Degas, and Toulouse-Lautrec. Like those artists he was concerned with much more than the raw presentation of nature; artistic and ideal considerations always played a significant part in his interpretations of the visual world. Evenepoel’s realism was usually refined, delicate, and poetic. The artist’s conviction and sensibility gave vitality to his painting…In spite of his painfully short career, Evenepoel left a substantial body of fine pictures that must be considered of the highest possible rank.’

Henri Evenepoel’s work has been offered at auction multiple times, the record price being 877,630 USD for Au Moulin Rouge, sold at Sothebys, London in 2002.

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