Antwerp 1886 – Ostend 1952
oil on canvas mounted on plywood
100 x 124 cm
Inventory number 2179
Constant Permeke, Flanders' most prominent Expressionist artist, was seriously wounded during the Great War. In 1919, after a recovery period in England, he returned to Ostend, where he had spent most of his childhood. It is here that he painted this Fisherman's Wife. He portrayed her in a squatting position, with legs wide apart, a massive volume at the centre of the composition. She is carrying a large basket and her head is turned away from the viewer. The colours are rather dark and the painting has an almost unfinished feel. The vague, sketchily painted background scenes contextualise the woman as the wife of a fisherman.
After returning to Ostend, Permeke rekindled his fascination with the harsh life of fishermen and their families, as he had witnessed on a daily basis during his youth. Permeke used to accompany fishermen out to sea and he also observed them relaxing ashore. Then he would lock himself up in his studio, isolated from the outside world, to create paintings that were far removed from the prevailing norm within the art establishment. Fisherman's Wife is one of Permeke's most accomplished compositions, certainly from this period and arguably in his entire oeuvre.