Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The NZ Series #18 - Gaston de Vel

Belgium born painter Gaston de Vel spent his student years at the Academie Royal des Beaux Arts, Brussels, which he first attended at age 17 from 1941 to 1945. Classes ran six days a week - "I was taught to paint directly from life, so I could learn to visualise things as an artist in colour, just like the Impressionists. Now these lessons are in my blood, a part of me."
One of his most influential tutors was Alfred Bastien, a former winner of the Prix Godecharle and friend of Claude Monet and John Singer Sargent. Gaston believes he is one of the last painters to have been taught in the classical and impressionistic fashion by a tutor directly involved with some of the leading artists of that movement.
Thirteen years were spent travelling, painting and exhibiting in the Belgian Congo until late 1960 when political events turned against Europeans. On December 15 he arrived in New Zealand with "nothing but peace and safety - it was worth losing eveything just for that" Gaston stated in an interview with the Auckland Star. Difficult years followed and initally Gaston worked as a signwriter in Auckland, eventually re-establishing himself as a professional artist.
Sunset at Mount Maunganui
Painting in a sophisticated, impressionistic style Gaston interpreted lively scenes of sun drenched courtyards, fishing ports and geranium filled cafes affording New Zealanders a welcome glimpse of exotic locations. He was awarded the Kelliher Art Prize in 1968. The 1980s saw several sellout exhibitions. Gaston's work is part of the permanent collection of Dunedin Public Art Gallery.
Gaston De Vel passed away on Saturday 17 July, 2010.

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