Gérard Joseph Portielje

(1856 - 1929)

Gérard Portielje was born in Antwerp, 6th February 1856, the son of the painter Jan Frederick Portielje (1829-1895) and brother to Edward Antoon (1861-1949). Gérard studied under his father, a genre and portrait painter born in Amsterdam who travelled widely in France and Germany, and who is best known for his paintings of elegant and sophisticated women in fashionable interiors. Gérard was also a pupil of Joseph Henri van Leruis (1823-1876), a painter of portraits and historical subjects, at the Academy in Antwerp where he continued his studies.

Whereas Jan Frederik was primarily a painter of society portraits and interiors, and Gérard’s brother, Edward Antoon’s subject matter, was exclusively scenes based on the lives of Dutch fishing families, Gérard himself portrayed the life of the bourgeoisie. Typically his works show men conversing in an interior, perhaps over a meal or a bottle of wine, in a town house or country inn. Such subjects allow Portielje to give full rein to his undoubted talent and virtuosity in the characterisation of the figures, the highly finished details in the tableware and costume, the rucked carpet and polished or worn furniture, whichever it may be. It is his eye for detail in depicting every day objects and their juxtaposition, the sidelong glance, the whispered remark, the telling of a story, that create such interest in Gérard’s compositions.

Gérard was appointed Professor of Drawing at the Academy in Antwerp and, like his father, proved a highly successful and widely collected artist, he died in Remich, Luxembourg 18th May 1929.

His works can be found in museums in: Antwerpen and the Melbourne National Gallery.