Willem Paerels (Delft, 1878 - Braine l'Alleud, 1962)

Dutch painter and draftsman.

Willem Paerels made his first steps towards art as a young apprentice in the workshop of his father – a decorator. At the young age of 16 he had left his native Delft (Netherlands) to study painting in the Belgian capital, Brussels. He did not appreciate the traditional art classes at the Academy of Fine Arts and has searched for inspiration far from the academic life. Paerels has found the liberty of expression in the “ateliers libres”. Being in urgent need for money he could not pursue any longer his career as a painter and has found an employment as a designer of furniture and ornaments for garments.

A stay in Paris, where he studied impressionist works, made him an art enthusiast again. Paerels started to paint with new energy and complete devotion. He isolated himself on the Brussels city outskirts and spent entire days with studies of light and the search for the harmony of colours. From 1900 on he mastered to render perfectly the transparency of light, his palette was light and the colours bright.

Soon afterwards a tendency for the use of pure colours and the straightforward fauvist style started to show. His first steps in the world of exhibitions in 1902 were therefore harshly criticized. The paintings with their avant-garde perception of light and colour failed to please the Belgian art critics. Luckily the art collector François van Haelen decided to support Paerels financially and has bought several paintings from him

Between 1908 and 1909 the interior-paintings by Parels became more decorative. He started to employ the birds-eye perspective, enhanced the contrasts between the colours applying them in a flat manner. As a member of the so-called “Brabant Fauvists” he was supported by the art dealer Georges Giroux and invited to expose there since 1914.

The beginning of the First World War forced Paerels, while he was travelling in his native country Netherlands, to stay there for a long period of time. He opened an “atelier libre” and spent this difficult phase with teaching young artists the approach to modern painting.  Regardless the distraction he had with teaching, the terrors of war left traces in his oeuvre. Around 1916 the atmosphere in his works darkened and revealed his sombre state of mind.

After the ending of the war he entered in a second personal and artistic crisis due to the loss of his wife. Paerels darkened his palette considerably and the colours have lost their brilliancy. The chromatic vibrations as well the transparency of light disappeared. At the same time the impact of Expressionism and Constructivism started to show. 

In the following decades his life was mainly dominated by his travelling and teaching activities. His impressions from foreign countries were fixed in numerous drawings and sketches. In his paintings he regained the light and brilliancy of the early days. He had left the constructivist style behind.

From 1942 to 1955 Paerels was teaching at the Academy of Fine Arts in Louvain. 

Willem Paerels
Catalogue raisonné in preparation

Galerie GirouxLemmenMeunierPokitonowVan RysselbergheWoutersJ. WytsmanR. Wytsman

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