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Vespers

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Constant Permeke
Antwerp 1886 - Ostend 1952
1927
oil on canvas
128 x 149 cm
Inventory number 2779

In the early 1920s, Constant Permeke briefly returned to the Lys region, where his friends and fellow Expressionists Gustave De Smet and Frits Van den Berghe had also settled. As before, he felt deeply touched by the harshness of rural life and the attachment of the peasants to their land. In Astene, a village on the river Lys, he produced some monumental paintings. Not only landscapes, but also interiors of modest rural dwellings.
This painting shows a woman grinding coffee while her husband smokes a pipe. A dog stares directly out of the canvas. The imposing figures seem oblivious to the viewer. This is the afternoon coffee break, around five o'clock or vespers, and it is time for the penultimate prayer of the day. The figures in the painting are exhausted after a hard day's labour. They are sunk in thought and too tired to speak.

A crowded canvas

Permeke applied his paints sparingly in this composition. Yet Vespers is not a light-hearted painting. The robust figures, rendered in earthy hues, occupy the entire surface. The man is mostly drawn, with very little colour, and the woman is rendered in darker tints. Neither has much room to move. They are stuck in their existence, confined to a life of strenuous labour.

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