SMET Gustav de
( 1877-1943). Belgian painter; born in Ghent; died at Deurle. With his younger brother Léon, also a painter, he took part in the business of his father, Jules de Smet, a contractor in interior decoration. However, he attended courses at the Academy of Fine Arts, whose discipline delayed the blossoming of his talent for a long time. No sooner had he emerged from adolescence than he established himself in the country, in the region of the Lys, to which he remained faithful until his death. From 1901 on, he could be seen at LaethemSaint-Martin with Permeke, Van den Berghe, Servaes and his brother Léon. In 1914 he took refuge in Holland. After the war he did not hasten to return to his country, although he visited there frequently. He exhibited several times in Brussels, founded 'Selection', a studio of artistic renewal, with André de Ridder, and became one of the most determined advocates of modern painting. In 1922, he established himself in a small village near Ghent, and then, in 1927, at Deurle, where he died after a long illness. His youth had been rather uncertain. It was only in his maturity that his expressionism developed a personal note, and only after 1922 that he found his idiom and painted images in which simplification of design and colour, geometrical construction of forms, reddish earth tones, and a disjointed composition combine to give the spectator an impression, not devoid of charm, of some scene of childhood. He painted landscapes, acrobats, life in the fields, peasants and their animals, doleful young women and adorable little girls. In these paintings, the baroque artist disappears behind the compassionate and affectionate man. Much less vigorous, more delicate, less gifted, but more sensitive than Permeke, Gustav de Smet represents the other face of Flemish Expressionism, a gracious melancholy rather than sad Expressionism, less taciturn, often even tender. His technique lacked assurance, or at least dexterity. And if he holds an enviable place in the history of Northern Baroque, it is chiefly due to the peacefulness, gentleness and meditativeness that his work contains.
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