River Landscape with Travellers
  • Henri-Joseph van Blarenberghe
  • Lille 1741 - 1826
  • River Landscape with Travellers
  • Gouache over black chalk, on paper
  • 151 × 217 mm

His early training and collaboration in the flourishing studio of his father Louis Nicolas van Blarenberghe (1716-1794) blocked Henri-Joseph from developing an independent style, even though he was already praised as a young artist for his talent. Instead, he spent his life perfecting the achievements of his father in landscapes and battle scenes, as well as miniature paintings.

Time and again, father and son would undertake study journeys together and collaborated as well on commissions for King Louis XVI.

This corporate identity went so far that neither would sign with his first name, using instead only the brand name van Blarenberghe. After the collapse of the monarchy, Henri-Joseph returned to Lille and soon overtook the administration of his native city’s museum.

The gouache presented here displays the trained hand of a miniature painter. The careful centring and depiction of depth in the landscape contrasts with the vertical division of the action into two parts. On the left, the viewer’s eye is entertained with a lively river landscape, turned a lush green from rainfall, with passing travellers and resting peasants, whose drying laundry flutters in the wind. On the right, by contrast, the vegetation appears to have dead off, the willows look neglected and the defoliated tree bent by a storm. Through such carefully calculated contrasts, the experienced artist was able to heighten the appeal of this multilayered work.