Orlando Museum of Art
Through May 5, 2019
Louis Dewis: A Belgian Post-Impressionist, currently on view at the Orlando Museum of Art, is more than an exhibition featuring the art of a lesser-known early 20th century painter, it’s a celebration of the life of a true artist.
Dewis was clearly inspired by the great artist of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and it shows in his work. The loose brushstrokes and soft, natural palettes of the Impressionists, and the romantic landscape compositions of Corot permeate his paintings. And there’s a nod to Monet with the inclusion of Dewis’ water lilies. But he was not a mere copyist, and his work was not a hobby. His studies demonstrate his skill with pencil and paper, and his almost mathematical approach to composition. His painting, The Old Beggar, illustrates his expertise in realism, but there is something more. He imbues each painting with a vitality the viewer can feel. This portrait of an old man desperate for a few coins isn’t a sentimental view of poverty: it’s a rendering of pure empathy.
This may have something to do with the fact that Dewis came to art as a profession late in life. Although a talented artist in his youth, he was told by his father that art was “frivolous” and his son’s duty was to the family business. After roughly three decades managing the family’s chain of department stores, Dewis sold his shares in 1919 and was finally free to pursue his livelihood as an artist.
This feeling of finally coming into one’s own is infused in his work. The influence of varied artists often referred to as “masters” is what the viewer sees. What the viewer feels, on the other hand, is the artist himself reflected in every painting. The artwork of Louis Dewis isn’t simply full of emotion: it’s full of life—his life, and the pure joy that comes from living one’s true purpose.