Eugène Laermans, baron
Oil on canvas
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium
A girl, reserved, lost in thought, poses in an artist's studio, her somewhat unsophisticated clothing betraying her modest origins. This is not a professional model and the painter's studio is not her usual environment. Her face bears a sceptical expression, seen in profile, and is illuminated by magnificent reflected light.
Reflections is the only painting that Laermans himself donated to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, clearly considering it very important in terms of prestige. However, this is a work from his first period, when he was still inspired by realism, and was painted before the painter's artistic breakthrough with The Evening of the Strike (1893, KMSK-MRBAB). The painter was sensitive to the tragic aspects of life, and this masterpiece was representative of his many paintings that illustrate the concerns of workers and peasants. Human misery, poverty, social movements and migration were the painter's favourite subjects. The painting on display is a precursor of this theme, despite its obvious differences.
This social disposition was apparently exacerbated by his own tragic story. At the age of 11, Laermans contracted meningitis, which left him practically deaf and dumb. In 1909, he started to become blind and increasingly shut himself away in solitude. He died in 1940, completely forgotten, despite the fact that King Albert I awarded him the title of Baron in 1927.Dominique Marechal