Theodore  Baron
Brussels  1840-1899  Namur

A  River  View  with  wasshing  Women

oil on canvas
60 x 100 cm          23.6 x 39.4 in

signed lower right TBaron

Théodore Baron was a landscape painter who worked according to the principles of realism. He reduced nature to its bare necessity. He is one of the leading Belgian realist artists and made the way for a typical Belgian impressionism. Baron freed landscape painting from its academic tradition, had a clear vision and didactical gifts which made him one of the important Belgian landscape painters of the 19th century. It was the author Camille Lemonnier who made him discover the valley of the river Meuse. All of his life Baron kept on returning to the province of Namur and the Ardennes-region. His straightforward vision on the simple reality of nature led to a preference for isolated locations and a neutral palette. His oeuvre adiates a quiet atmosphere by his preference for silver tonalities and the choice of subject. Baron's naturalistic vision of nature shows strength en seriousness. Théodore Baron was one of the first artists to discovered the beauty of the Ardennes-region and to render its true nature. For which he was called Le peintre de la Meuse. Through a direct observation, a deep analysis and synthesis Baron shows a realistic vision of the theme. He modulated the relief of the landscape in a delicate way with a refined palette of greyish, reddish and silver tonalities to achieve compactness, strength and volatility. The light always forms an integral part of the theme and never envelops the object. His landscapes are almost monochrome in tonality and show an exceptional interest for the composition with a perfect balance between the different plans. For the artist the theme itself was of minor importance than the rendering of the atmosphere.
Theodore Baron was a pupil of François Joseph Navez at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts and of Hippolyte de la Charlerie (1827-1869) at the Atelier Libre Saint-Luc in Brussels. Until 1882 he lived in one of the Brussels artistic quarters, populated with equally-minded young artists like Louis Artan and Louis Dubois who showed great admiration for realism and Gustave Courbet. In the first half of the 1860's Theodore Baron was already active in nearby villages like Hoeilaart, Oudergem and Tervuren, painting landscapes in a realist style. From 1865 until 1868 Théodore Baron worked in the village of Kalmthout near Antwerp, where already a group of realist landscape painters with e.g. Florent Crabeels, Adrien-Joseph Heymans, Isidore Meyers and Jacques Rosseels was active. Although they were working individually their common objective was to free landscape painting from academic traditions through the stimulation of direct observation. Théodore Baron's strong artistic personality and great technical knowledge showed them a structure with discipline, an insight and solid principles.
In the first half of the seventies Théodore Baron also worked in the Limburg-region (Genk) and at the banks of the river Schelde, from Burcht to Bornem. From 1868 until the early eighties Theodore Baron regularly was in the village of Anseremme where he spent the summer months in the company of mainly Brussels painters, sculptors, draughtsmen and authors like Felicien Rops and Octave Maus. Theodore Baron worked in Domburg (Zeeland) in the eighties, around 1875 he was active in Fontainebleau. Before 1882 he also travelled to Italy, Holland and Germany where he worked in the Eiffel and at the banks of the river Moezel.
In 1868 Theodore Baron was one of the founders of the Brussels artistic group Societe libre des beaux arts. Their purpose was to unite realist artists, to promote working en plein-air and to give young artists a platform. Baron was an active member as the secretary and treasurer of the group and organiser of exhibitions. Until the dissolution of the society in 1876 he did participate at most of its manifestations. Its successor was La Chrysalide, which was active from 1875 until 1881 and which regrouped younger artists with the same ideas. Theodore Baron did participate at all four manifestations of La Chrysalide.
In 1882 Theodore Baron was appointed as a teacher at the academy of Namur and went to live in the nearby village of Saint-Servais. In 1893 he was appointed director of this institution. He participated in several exhibitions in Amsterdam, Antwerp, Berlin, Bordeaux, Brussels, London, Melbourne, Namur, Paris and Port-Adelaide. His work was shown at the World exhibitions of Brussels (1897) and Paris (1878 and 1900). His paintings where shown at all important retrospective exhibitions of Belgian art, including the Brussels Exposition historique de l'art belge in 1880 and the famous exhibition Het landschap in de Belgische kunst, 1830-1914 in the Ghent Museum of Fine Arts in 1980. Retrospective shows of Théodore Baron's oeuvre were organised in Brussels (1886 & 1900) and Namur (1892 & 1999). He was rewarded a gold medal at the salons of Antwerp (1879), Amsterdam (1883), Bordeaux (1895), Brussels (1897), Chicago (1893), London (1862), Melbourne (1883) and Port-adelaïde (1887). Baron was an officer in the Order of Leopold. In 1903 a monumental bronze sculpture of the artist by Charles Van der Stappen was inaugurated in the city of Namur.

Museums: Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp; Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels; Collection of the Belgian State, Brussels; Royal Collection, Brussels; Administration communale, Dinant; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Doornik; Gemeentelijk Museum van Elsene - Musée Communale d'Ixelles, Brussels; Musée Camille Lemonnier, Elsene; Museum of Fine Arts, Gent; Groninger Museum, Groningen; Gemeentemuseum, The Hague; Administration communale, Huy; Musée de l'Art Wallon, Liège; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Mons; Administration communale, Namur ; Collection of the Province Namur; Musée de Groesbeeck-de Croix, Namur; Musée Hôtel Charlier, Sint-Joost-ten-Node

Bibliography:
Dictionnaire historique et raisonné des peintres Adolphe Siret Paris 1883 vol.I
L'Art Flamand - La renaissance du XIXe siècle: L'Ecole de 1830 et les peintres contemporains Jules Du Jardin Bruxelles 1898 vol.IV
L'Art Flamand - Les artistes contemporains I & II Jules Du Jardin Bruxelles 1899 vol.V & 1900 vol.VI
Théodore Baron, le peintre de la Meuse M De Ombiaux in Wallonia 1902 p.209
A la mémoire de Théodore Baron E Picard in L'Art Moderne Bruxelles 1902 p.278
Die Belgische Malerei im neunzehnten Jahrhundert Richard Muther Berlin 1904
Belgische Kunst des 19. Jahrhunderts Henri Hymans Leipzig 1906
L'Ecole belge de peinture, 1830-1905 Camille Lemonnier Bruxelles 1906
Niederländisches Künstler-Lexikon Dr Alfred von Würzbach Wien & Leipzig  vol.I 1909 & vol.III 1911
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Arts Plastiques dans la province de Namur, 1800-1945 Maïté Pacco Maison de la Culture Namur 11/9-10/10/1993
Le dictionnaire des peintres belges, du XIVe siècle à nos jours E de Wilde Bruxelles 1995 vol.I & vol.III
Théodore Baron, 1840-1899 Pierre-Paul Dupont, Maîté Pacco Maison de la Culture de Namur 1999
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De Kalmthoutse of Grijze School en haar tijdgenoten Marina Van Aert, Jean Bastiaensen Tielt 2007


 
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