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Théo van Rysselberghe, Coastal Scene

Key facts
Full title Coastal Scene
Artist Théo van Rysselberghe
Artist dates 1862 - 1926
Date made about 1892
Medium and support Oil on canvas
Dimensions 51 × 61 cm
Inscription summary Signed
Acquisition credit Bought, 2000
Inventory number NG6582
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Coastal Scene
Théo van Rysselberghe

This cool, elegant painting explores the quality of light on water – how it moves, how it reflects and, towards the base of the picture, how it glows. The clouds are hardly reflected in the water: it seems as if the light has slipped under them to illuminate the vast, still stretch of almost tideless sea.

In 1886 in Paris, Théo van Rysselberghe saw Georges Seurat’s monumental painting Sunday Afternoon on the Ile de la Grande Jatte (now in the Art Institute of Chicago). He immediately realised the importance of Seurat’s new and startling technique, known as pointillism – myriad tiny dots of paint in complementary colours – and began to experiment with it himself.

The colours of Coastal Scene, and the absence of trees or buildings, make it appear a cold, northern seascape, but it’s thought to have been painted when van Rysselberghe was on the shores of the Mediterranean.

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