CHARLES-ERNEST DE BELLE, A.R.C.A.
FIVE YOUNG GIRLS
signed with monogram
sight 28 ins x 31 ins; 50.8 cms x 61 cms
Pastel is a challenging medium. It has been described as straddling the world of painting and drawing yet unlike both of these methods, it is very difficult to return to an earlier stage of the work to improve it. Using pastels requires both decisiveness and a deft touch. It has been described by one artist familiar with the medium as “working without a net”. Essentially, there is no room for error but when it has been done well, painting with pastel can result in magical works that seem woven from light and air.
Charles-Ernest de Belle (1873-1939) was a master of this medium, acutely aware of the level of skill the medium demands. Biographer Colin MacDonald notes “when ill health deprived him of the control in his hand so necessary in pastel work”, de Belle switched permanently to oil painting. Given its demands, a large-scale work such as this lot might be a fool-hardy undertaking in the hands of an artist any less competent than de Belle. But here experience and rare skill result in success. It is perhaps unsurprising that this work has remained in the artist’s family’s possession until now.
Private Collection, Oakville (by descent from the artist)