In 1920, Frits Van den Berghe lived for a short time with Gustave De Smet in Blaricum, a village in the Gooi countryside east of Amsterdam. The house that De Smet and his wife lived in was called 'Malpertuus'. The name Malpertuus, or Malpertuis, was already known in the Middle Ages, in particular as the castle of Reynard the Fox. Later, a great many inns received the name. The word quickly became a synonym for a welcoming place of refuge and it is therefore very appropriate for the house in which De Smet lived as an exile during WWI. In this picture, we see Gustave and Gusta De Smet by a table which forms the centre of a symmetrically built up composition.
The various elements around it form a geometric pattern. The colour is subordinate to the arrangement of the forms and is accentuated here and there with meticulously applied coloured accents that enliven the sombre, night like atmosphere. Van den Berghe did not paint this work using heavy paint materials, as usual, but with a thin tempera, so that the drawn forms are more visible. The work illustrates Van den Berghe's evolution towards constructive expressionism in which the influence of French cubism is more obviously apparent. The integration of the name Malpertuus in the painting is also reminiscent of the classical cubist period of Picasso and Braque.
SizeH: 110 cm
MediumTempera on canvas