Maurice Sijs (Gent 1880 - 1972 St. Amandsberg)
Castle Ryvissche in Zwijnaarde
Oil on canvas
120 x 165 cm.
Provenance: Berko Fine Arts, Private collection, USA.
Literature: P. en V. Berko, Dictionaire van Belgische en Hollandse Dierenschilders geboren tussen 1750 en 1880, Knokke 1998, p. 461.
Castle Rijvissche in Zwijnaarde dates back to the Middle Ages. The castle surrounded by canals already functioned in the 12th century as a medieval moated castle for the defense around Ghent and belonged to St. Peter's abby. Maurice Sijs, an artist of natural talent was born in 1880 in Gent, where he spent most of his youth. His father, a shoemaker by profession, was a famous tenor singer and a respectable member of the St. Jacobs Church Choir in Gent. His uncle, Seraphijn Sijs, was also a well-known artist before the turn of the century. Seraphijn, who was mainly known for his religious works, which are displayed in several churches and cathedrals, played a prominent part in the artistic education of his cousin Maurice and his brother Jan who became known for his sculpture. On his recommendation Maurice entered the Academy of Fine Art, run by Louis Tytgadt and Jean Delvin, in 1893 where he won several awards. After this period at the academy he joined the army, based in the St. Jorisbarrack. It was during this time that he began taking lessons at her Higher Institute of Fine Art (H.I.S.K) in Antwerp. Maurice continued studying at H.I.S.K. after he left the army in 1902. By 1901 Maurice had completed his studies at the Higher Institute of Fine Art. In that same year he painted Pieuse Tradition, which became the main attraction of his first exhibition in Gent. The year 1907 was important for Maurice as he had his first major exhibition, ‘Art and Literature’, in Signed and dated: Maurice Sijs de Ryvissche 1291 addition marrying Helen-Marie Hamelinck. In 1909 he decided to settle in peaceful Latem, along the River Leie. Maurice was the proud owner of a picturesque painter’s studio overlooking the river. Consequently, he developed a liking for scenes on the water. In addition, Maurice made his debut as a figure-painter, mostly portraits. One only has to refer to his two most important life-sized portraits, of his wife and his uncle, to be able to understand his natural talent. Maurice soon came to the conclusion that painting exclusively figures and portraits would restrict him from exploring his creativeness. After five years of concentrating entirely on painting figures he started to focus on other genres, such as landscape, marine, interior, and still life. Being near water inspired him and in 1931 he decided to buy a house boat, which he named after the river ‘De Leievogel’. This boat also doubled as a studio, enabling him to admire closely, together with his wife, life on the water. He went on an intensive exploratory expedition, with the inland waterways of the Flemish coast as his starting point and continued his trip into the north of the Netherlands. He visited places such as Volendam, Edam and Dordrecht, the last place he visited by boat in 1923. Due to his nomadic existence on the water he became a dedicated sea and harbour painter.