Interpretive Resource

Overview: Lemmen's Portrait of the Artist's Sister

An exploration of Lemmen's painting technique and his ability to create a decorative field of color and express his sister's personality.

Art Institute of Chicago. Impressionism and Post-Impressionism in The Art Institute of Chicago. Art Institute of Chicago, 2000, p. 98.

A painter with limited formal training and an interest in the decorative arts, Belgian Georges Lemmen quickly made his mark after 1888, when he joined the Brussels-based avant-garde group Les Vingt. It was almost certainly while exhibiting with this organization (whose membership was international) that Lemmen was exposed to Georges Seurat’s Neo-Impressionist technique, a carefully orchestrated system of contrasting and complementary paint dots devised by the French artist to create an optically based, decorative Weld of color. Shortly after Seurat’s Sunday on La Grande Jatte—1884 appeared in Les Vingt’s 1887 exhibition, Lemmen emerged as one of the leading adherents of Belgian Neo-Impressionism.

In this staid but psychologically penetrating portrait of his sister, Julie, Lemmen applied the style to his own interpretive ends, focusing not only on the composition as a chromatically unified whole but on the sitter’s personality as well. Thirteen years Lemmen’s elder and unmarried, Julie lived in her brother’s household and cared for his children. Here, the artist conveyed her chaste, determined character, tinged with a hint of melancholy, through her prim posture, simple hairstyle, and austere attire, which is brightened only by the triangular gold brooch below her neck.

emotions, families, portraits, women


High School

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