Woman torso by Léon Sarteel


Woman torso in bronze with light brown patina signed « l Sarteel » standing for the belgium sculptor Léon Sarteel and « Fond. Vindevogel Zwijnaarde Gand. » for the Vindevogel foundry.

Léon Sarteel (1882 – 1942) was born and grew up in Ghent; his sculptural career, after local training and evening classes, first came into gear in 1908, when he won the Sculpture Prize, awarded once every six years, at the Academy of the city of his birth. The stipend that came with it made it possible for him to concentrate exclusively on his work for a period of three years. The young Sarteel instantly stepped into the foreground thanks to the successes generated by his sculpture The Orator at the tri-annual Salon of Ghent.
For five years he occupied an atelier outside the city (Sint-Denijs-Westrem) until the vicissitudes of war drove him back to his parental home. Thanks to a fortunate lottery the young sculptor evaded military service and he was able to pursue his artistic calling. For thirty years he actively participated in many official exhibitions, as well as organizing a fair number of them himself: it was a demanding aspect of his hardworking life.
The appreciation for his work continued: in 1919 the Museum of Fine Arts of Ghent purchased Sarteels’ bronze bust of the painter Charles- René Callewaert (1893-1936), and two years later the University of Ghent ordered a posthumous bust, a medallion and a bronze wall relief, in memory of the famous engineer and professor Jules Boulvin (1855-1920). More important to Sarteels’ further development was his marriage, aged forty, to Anne Pirsens, ten years his junior, with whom he had three children.
In the meantime his work gradually evolved from romantic realism into an intimate symbolism that was entirely his own. The influence that Sarteel initially gleaned from Constantin Meunier (1831-1905) gradually made way for the symbolist atmosphere exuded by the work of the far younger George Minne (1866-1941). That style shift was evident in the 3,2 metre high Monument of the Cooperation that he realized for an exhibition in Ghent in 1924.
Following the birth of his son Leon (1925-1949) he undertook a study trip in France and several years later (1929-1930) Sarteel was able to have a house built of his own that included a studio. Despite his relentless participation in exhibitions he continued to execute commissions (portraits, garden and funerary sculptures, medallions) in the most diverse materials of wood, marble, granite and bronze.
In 1935 he created a life-sized Woman of This Time as an eye catcher in the rose garden of the Brussels World Fair. He was never entrusted with a teaching position, but he was regularly called upon to sit on the jury of major sculpture competitions (including the Prix de Rome, the Godecharle Prize, the Devigne Prize…).
The sculptural output of this kind-hearted artist, whose work is well represented in public auctions, is considerable, and always infused with a wholly singular approach to reality. The human form, often of (young) women and mothers, tended to lead to a placid stylization rather than evoking a deep emotional impact. Quite a few works received a symbolic title: Spring, The Morning, The Summer, Youth, Maturity, Luck, Higher Up, etc. The Sarteel biography is extensive, and the list of his exhibitions was drawn up after the retrospective exhibition of his work that was held in Sint-Denijs-Westrem in 1982. Conspiciously absent from that overview is Sarteel’s participation, with no less than 5 bronzes, in the event Flämische Kunst der Gegenwart (Flemish Contemporary Art) that took place from 17 May until 11 June in Berlin in 1941, the year in which the artist became a member of the board of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent.
In 1942 he made Gemoedsadel (Nobility of Mind), which was probably Sarteel’s final work.
  • Height : 54 cm
  • Length x width : 23 x 24 cm

Bronze with light brown patina.

The Vindevogel Foundry : This renowned bronze foundry was located in Zwijnaarde in Belgium. It was a family business, consisting of Karel Vindevogel and his sons Achiel (1911-1984 or 1994) and Geo (1923-1977). In Ghent one finds among others the following statues that were cast by them: the statue ‘the first step in life’, which is located in the Citadel Park and is a design by Geo Verbanck and the statue of Pieter van Gent (on the Fratersplein). They sign their work with « Fonderie Vindevogel » or « bronz. Findevogel ».

ca. 1925.

The same bronze sculpture can be found in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Antwerp in Belgium.

VERBRAEKEN, P.(2017) Living Marble. Antwerp: Immpact nv, p. 84-85.

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