Sur le Rail
Watercolor on paper
385 x 265 mm
Signed lower left 'F. Binjé'
Click image to enlarge
Estate of the Artist by his death in 1900
By descent to his wife Mme Franz Binjé (Camille Zenaïde Binjé-Menet), by 1905
By descent to their son Général-Major Marcel Binjé, by 1931
Thence by descent in the family
Exposition retrospective de l’Art Belge, Société Royale des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles, 15 July until
2 Novembre 1905 (cat. n° 91).
By instinct and inclination, Franz Binjé can be regarded as the greatest amateur painter the history of Belgian art has known. Working his day job as an official for the new Belgian Railways, he started painting under the influence of Hippolyte Boulanger and his Realist School of Tervuren, and learned by working closely together with Guillaume Vogels. Even though Binjé was largely autodidact, he was known as a great teacher and, as such, had a real impact on the second School of Tervuren. His style is usually categorized as "indegenous impressionism" and as such he is regarded as a pupil of Guillaume Vogels. Franz Binjé was most appreciated for his refined watercolors and is renown until today by connoisseurs as one of the greatest Belgian watercolorists. Even though many museums own works by his hand, the humble Binjé never promoted himself widely and exhibited for his own pleasure and that of his artist friends, rather than pursuing international fame.
"The essential characteristic of watercolors is not to resemble any other genre of painting: it should frankly be the stain, the drop of colored water; it should be impulsive, spontaneous (...) not "haphazardly" however (...) but thought over, constructed in advance in the brain, only in broad lines; what feeling, what symphony, just an overall impression."* - Franz Binjé
The present drawing was exhibited at the 1905 Exposition retrospective de l’Art Belge, an important initiative of the Brussels Société Royale des Beaux-Arts to attract the international public coming to see the Exposition Universelle held in Liège that year. This exhibition, and its catalogue, proved leading in its scope and choice of the represented artists and their representative works. The drawing was lent to the exhibition by late Binjé's wife, Camille Zenaïde Binjé-Menet, who held the work in her private collection until her death. In contrast to the sale of the studio Franz Binjé and his private collection in 1930, or the donation of certain works to the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in 1931, the present drawing remained in the family even after the death of Camille Binjé-Menet.
"In my opinion, the watercolor has the same artistic value as the tableau. (...) The trick is to work as an artist; style, character, emotion, thought, dream produce this undefinable radiation. This electric communication which, through the works, goes from the artist who created to the aesthete who beholds. The process has nothing to do with it, and the watercolor is as good a conductor of this current than any other genre of painting."** -Franz Binjé
"Sur le Rail" sums up the figure of Franz Binjé in a single artwork. It is the perfect example of his typical realist landscapes rendered with an impressionistic and highly personal watercolor technique, in which the focus is on light as well as on atmosphere. A rare example, it shows the one thing besides painting that had been a constant in his life: the Railway.
___________ Notes ___________
*/** Letter from Franz Binjé to Octave Maus in response to a referendum on the value of painting in watercolor, reproduced in: Paul Aaron, La Belgique artistique et littéraire : une anthologie de langue française (1848-1914), Bruxelles : Editions Complexe, 1997, p. 192-194.