Portrait of his wife
Théo Van Rysselberghe paints landscapes, still lifes and flower pieces, but has a preference for portraits. Family members, friends and colleagues posed for him regularly. This portrait of his wife Maria Monnom is largely composed of blue and orange dots in various tints. The blue of the background and Maria’s shadow creates a strong contrast with the orange of the dress and the curtain.
At an exhibition in Paris in 1886, Van Rysselberghe saw the pointillist work of Georges Seurat and Paul Signac and found the new technique ‘consummate’ and ‘logical and correct’. For years he was an enthusiastic exponent of the method, but in his own personal way and retaining tonal colours.
Likeness and the character
While the figures in the paintings of Seurat and Signac are often highly abstracted, Van Rysselberghe attempts to depict both the likeness and the character of the model in his portraits. Shortly after his death, the artist Maurice Denis wrote: ‘He spoke about volumes, colour and composition, but that was in order to conceal his fascination for personality through his care to depict the character and the psychology correctly’.