(Ghent 1862 - 1944 Brussels)
Reflections on the snowy pond
Signed and dated lower left C. Montald/ 16
Gouache on paper
27 1/8 x 35 inches (69 x 89 cm)
Constant Montald proved to be a talented and ambitious artist from childhood, voraciously studying decorative painting both day and night from the age of twelve. While enrolled at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent he quickly found his passion for producing work on a monumental scale. At just twenty-three years old the artist earned a grant to study at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he worked with fellow Belgian artist Henri Privat-Livemont and explored the Art Nouveau style. Thereafter Montald won the Belgian Prix de Rome in 1886 which afforded him the opportunity to travel extensively throughout Italy and Egypt for three years. While living abroad Montald found the inspirations that would inform his career, most notably in the early Byzantine and Renaissance traditions he discovered upon visiting the Basilica San Marco in Venice and Sistine Chapel in Rome. These influences are clear in Montald’s best-known works Le Bateau de l’Ideal and La Fontaine (both 1907), which adorn the entrance hall of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Brussels with vibrant hues of lapiz blue and iridescent gold.
Upon his return to Belgium in 1891 Montald became interested in the occultist influences of Jean Delville’s Symbolist group Pour l’Art. He exhibited at the first Salon d’Arte Idéaliste, founded by Delville as the Belgian successor of Joséphin Péladan’s Parisian Salon de la Rose + Croix. In 1896 Montald accepted the post of Professor of Decorative Arts at the Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels. During his impressive thirty-six-year tenure at the Academy, Montald taught and mentored countless important artists, including the famed Surrealists Paul Delvaux and Jean Delville. Being of a teacher was an integral part of his identity, and even after his death by a stroke in 1944 he continued to support young talent by implementing an award for artists of monumental painting in his last will and testament.
In 1909 Montald erected his beloved home in the then lush and undeveloped region of Sint-Lambrechts-Woluwe. Opening its doors to fellow artists and intellectuals, Montald transformed his residence into an important meeting spot for creative contemporaries, notably the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig and Belgian artist Emile Verhaeren. The Villa Montald proved especially significant to the artist during World War I when it became the subject matter for his easel paintings. Unable to work on a monumental scale due to the circumstantial absence of commissions, Montald focused on capturing the views around his estate. As demonstrated in the current work, these thinly painted snowy scenes are reminiscent of Breughel’s winter townscapes. These plaster-toned monochromatic compositions also reflect the lasting impression of the Italian frescoes Montald so greatly admired at the beginning of his career.
After the war Montald returned to painting on a monumental scale, co-founding the artist group L’Art Monumental in 1920 with Jean Delville and Emile Fabry, among others. In 1934 he became a member of the Royal Academy of Belgium.