Leo Gestel was born to the director of an art school in Woerden in 1881. Together, his father Willem Gestel and uncle Dimmen Gestel-who had painted with van Gogh-began instructing him in the arts at a young age. Leo Gestel endured financial setbacks early in his career and as a result began drafting book illustrations and advertisements for Dutch companies such as the technology firm Philips. On a trip to Paris, Gestel was exposed to the French avant-garde movement, which would have a profound effect on his style beginning in the 1910s. In 1913, Herwarth Walden offered him the chance to exhibit work in the Erster Deutscher Herbstsalon in Berlin. Gestel was known to summer in Bergen, and eventually joined the Bergen School, a movement characterized by expressionism and dark color with a definitive Cubist influence. Tragically, most of Gestel's works were lost when a fire destroyed his studio in 1929. After the accident he moved his practice to Blaricum and died nearly a decade later in Hilversum.
Nacht is a Symbolist and Neo-Impressionist nocturne of Amsterdam's Amstelbrug bridge. Mysterious and brooding, the canvas is dominated by shades of dark blue, purple, and black, lit only faintly by the glow of streetlights and moonlight. Gestel's style here is definitively Post-Impressionist, borrowing technical elements from Vincent van Gogh in his expressive brushwork and use of color. One of the leading Dutch Modernists alongside Piet Mondrian, Gestel experimented with cubism, expressionism, futurism, and postimpressionism over the course of his career. Nacht is an impressive example of his early work; in later paintings, Gestel would transition to a style derived closely from Cubism and reliant upon strong line and shape.
Kunstzaal van Lier, Amsterdam.
Anonymous sale: Sotheby's, Amsterdam, 2 December 2003, lot 249.
Kunsthandel Simonis & Buunk, Ede
Private Collection, Amsterdam
The Hague, Kunstzaal Schüller & Eisenloeffel, Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings by Leo Gestel, March - April 1913, no. 6.
Carole Denninger-Schreuder, Painters of Amsterdam, Four Centuries of Cityscapes, Bussum, 2000, no. 94 (illustrated pp. 108 and 112).
Ingelies Vermeulen (a.o.), Night Light, Painters of the New Light, 1880-1940, Haarlem, 2010, pp. 24-25 (illustrated), p. 124.