Willy Schlobach first studied at the Academy in Brussels and then later in Ghent. At the precocious age of nineteen he was already at the forefront of painters in Belgium numbering among his close friends Emile Verhaeren and Theo van Rysselberghe whose instructive influence on him was of great significance.
He was one of the founding members of the group 'Les XX' who were broadly speaking avant-garde and influenced by the Parisian developments in painting but by no means uniform in their style or approach (see also have lots 201 and 233). Octave Maus, a lawyer and critic was the driving force behind 'Les XX' but the most important painter was Theo van Rysselberghe. Van Rysselberghe had lived and worked in Paris and brought to Belgium an intimate knowledge and understanding of the Neo-Impressionist techniques of Seurat and Signac which were to be a great influence on the younger generation of Belgian painters such as Willy Finch and Willy Schlobach. In the late 1880s Schlobach responded with enthusiasm to these new ideas emanating from Paris and produced some well structured and highly organised pointillist work in which his favoured subject matter was coastal scenes. Schlobach was also influenced by the other main group within 'Les XX' which was best represented by Fernand Khnopff. As well as working in a pointillist manner he produced paintings full of symbolism and reminiscent of the Pre-Raphaelites whose work he had studied and admired on visits to England.
It is, however, in the neo-impressionist or luminist work that Schlobach found greater freedom of expression away from the sometimes claustrophobic subject matter of the symbolists.
On his visits to London Schlobach had been influenced not only by the Pre-Raphaelite painters but also by the work of Turner whose atmospheric and misty paintings had long held a fascinaton for artists. The present later luminist work which dates from the early twentieth century shows a softening of some of the harsher colour tones of French neo-impressionism as if Schlobach was trying to adapt their divisionist techniques for a more vaporous atmospheric effect.
Water and light were important elements for the luminist painters and Schlobach's interest in the early twentieth century may well have been stimulated by Emile Claus' new movement 'Vie et Lumière' founded with Adriaan-Josef Heymanns in 1904. By this time the earlier rigours of Seurat's divisionism were giving way in Belgium to a more arbitrary use of pointilism which 'gave priority to painterly effects rather than theoretical principals as was generally true of the Belgian approach to luminism' (Belgian Painting, Exhib. Cat. Whitford & Hughes, London 1990).
Museum and Gallery Holdings
Brussels (Bibliothèque royale Albert Ier): Dead Woman (La Morte) (pastel)