Charles-Albert de SAINT-GENOIS de SAINT-BREUCQ (Avesnes, c.1855 - Asnières-sur-Seine, 1918)

Evening News

40.2 x 100 cm. (15 1316 x 39 38 in.)
1900
. Pastel on paper laid down on canvas. Signed lower left: de Saint-Genois.

Provenance
• France, Private Collection.

The Artist
Charles-Albert de Saint-Genois de Grand Breucq came from an old noble family of Hainaut. His great Grandfather, François Joseph, Count of Saint-Genois, historian and geneaologist, was Deputy for Hainaut to the Noble States. Settled in Prague after the Brabantine Revolution, he became Chamberlain to Emperor Francis II. Back in Tournay, the family endured the suppression of their feudal rights and other financial measures taken under Napoleon. Ruined, the Count waited for the fall of Bonaparte to assert his titles and was named First Herald of Arms of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. The painter’s grandfather, the Count Ferdinand (1793-1838) seems to have led a tranquil existence as a magistrate. The daughter of Count Ferdinand, Charlotte Elisabeth, called the Countess of Saint-Genois de Grand-Breucq (1830-1900) settled in France, first in the North, and then in Asnières near Paris. Although single, she gave birth to three sons: Hippolyte Alexis, born in 1853; Paul Alfred, born in 1857; and Charles-Albert.

Passionate about art from an early age, Charles-Albert entered the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris where he followed the teachings of Joseph- Nicolas Robert-Fleury (1797-1890) and Fernand Humbert (1843-1934). The young artist formed a friendship with Henri Gervex (1852-1929) which had a decisive influence on his career.

In 1885, Saint-Genois entered the Salon with Au Moulin de la Galette no 2172). The following year, he exhibited A Rehearsal at the Concert-Café of the Ambassadors belonging to a certain M. Ducarre (no 2107). As was the case for many painters of the time, Saint-Genois was fond of popular entertainment: balls, circus, street theater – a universe he knew well on account of his brother Paul Alfred, who performed as a prestidigitator under the name of Dicksonn before directing a theater in Asnières. The painter participated in the exhibition organized by the latter in 1892 “on Buffalo Bill’s lands” at Porte Maillot on the anniversary of Columbus landing in America. Charles-Albert was in charge of the “panoramic museum,” while his brother took care of the “theater of retrospective sorcery.” The public could also discover pantomimes, “diverse attractions,” and dance.

Our Pastel
Very original in its horizontal format and its composition, our pastel reflects Saint-Genois’ interest in ordinary people which could already be seen in the Rehearsal at the Concert-Café of the Ambassadors. In the painting, the artist gathered the artists on the left side, and paid special attention to their faces, to the detriment of most of the rest of the body. Evening News goes even further, as it frames the composition very close to the heads of the rather hefty man and the vivacious woman. The gestures, which remain outside of this framework, are barely distinguishable. Who are these figures? Is the woman a street seller? A daughter ? or a wife ? And is the man an anonymous buyer or a father?

The blue shadows projected on the wall by the setting sun contribute to the mystery in the confrontation of the young woman’s unpretentious profile and the lowered gaze of the man. Similarly, the light blur characteristic of pastel – as well as Saint-Genois’ manner that can also be found in his oil paintings – makes these scene resemble a mirage, a furtive apparition in a mirror or through the window of a train wagon.

The apparently anodin scene becomes an enigma whose key is probably the woman’s cheerful spirits indicated in golden yellow shades. However our pastel is also a decorative element in the purest spirit of Art Nouveau which dictates the fluidity of the lines of a neck, the unreality of flowers, and even the form of the letters in the artist’s signature.
A.Z.

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