Ghent 1883 – Lucerne 1966
Oil on canvas
Inventory number 3281
Ghent-born artist Albert Servaes is the main exponent of religious Expressionism, a movement that combined a simplified formal language with a dark palette in order to evoke deep religious emotions. These emotions are generally closely associated with the themes of nature and rural life. The simplicity and harshness of peasant life and the deep religious devotion of the residents of the village of Sint-Martens-Latem, where Servaes lived and worked, were a rich source of inspiration to the artist. This particular painting deals with the universal theme of death. It symbolises the transition from earthly to eternal life. A priest administers the last sacraments to a dying person. The other figures look on piously. Alongside the priest, a sexton holds a candle. The painting combines two compositions, as it were: the bottom section is dominated by dark hues, the top section by brighter colours. This creates a sense of tension that emphasises the solemn nature of the scene.
Inspired by Smits
Servaes drew inspiration for this painting from the work of the Dutch-Flemish artist Jakob Smits. This is apparent in the fresco-like composition, the grainy finish and the sketchy figuration, as well as the interior with whitewashed walls, the low beamed ceiling, and the divided window.