Stunning post-impressionist inspired antique ceramic floor c.1900-1910
A quite stunning ornate ceramic encaustic period floor totalling more than 13m2 / 140 sq ft, using three 14cm sq tiles in a tessellation based on a repeating internal frame design.
The floor dates c.1900-1910; the date of the house from which it was reclaimed in Bethune, northern France, not a great distance from the Belgian border.
Each tile is reverse-marked ‘Leon de Smet & co., Canteleu, Lille’. Leon de Smet (1881-1966) was a Belgian Post-Impressionist painter and brother of artist Gustav de Smet – a profile of Leon is below. Despite considerable web based research and contact with Chris Blanchett, an internationally know tile historian, we cannot find further information on whether these tiles were design commissions by the manufacturer to Leon de Smet, an endorsed design by de Smet of the manufacturers work or simply the manufacturer’s design being influenced by the artist. However, it is likely with his name imprinted in the tiles inscription that there would be a sanctioning by the artist. The detail, warmth of palette and exquisite fluidity of the main central four piece field tile motif are complementary to his work.
Tile quantities give or take one or two:-
Field tiles – 260 Internal frame tiles – 310 Frame corner tiles – 100 Total tiles – 670 (13.2m2 / 140 sq ft)
Profile of the Artist: – Leon de Smet 1881-1966
Leon de Smet (1881-1966) was a Belgian Post-Impressionist artist whose work is increasingly in demand. Leon de Smet was born in Gent (Belgium) in 1881 where he received his artistic education at the Academy of Fine Arts under Jean Delvin. From the beginning he painted in an impressionistic way strongly influenced by Emile Claus who introduced him to luministic impressionism. In 1914 he moved to London where almost immediately he started a widely excepted career. He was involved in portraiture of many important artistic members of London society, including the famous dramatist George Bernard Shaw.
Leon de Smet was also influenced by the modern movement of expressionism that was represented by his brother Gustave de Smet (1877-1943). He was a member of the expressionist group ‘In Laethem’ and also a member of the circle of ‘Vie et Lumière’ with Theo Van Rysselberghe. In the years up until 1920 his style was clearly divisionistic in which he mingled in soft strokes of pastel-like pallets. In that time his interiors with figures were intimate and dreamlike. He continued his career in his primary style of the Impressionism, nevertheless the divisionistic touch faded away and was replaced by more vivid colours, and less vague figures. Among his favorite subjects we can find landscapes, figures and still lifes. He often painted his first and second wives Maria and Claire and their family.