Henri Le Sidaner created his own personalised form of Neo-Impressionism that was distilled from his otherwise traditional approach. A sense of elegiac quietness and solitude pervades virtually all Le Sidaner’s work. While studying and working in Paris he often found it necessary to escape from Cabanel’s busy atelier to Etaples and the stern coastline of Northern France. As he explained ‘Etaples - that is to say, Nature - revived me’. This statement is slightly misleading, for in fact his art was based on contemplation and recollection rather than raw nature, more intellectual than purely visual. He frequently worked from memory, and in his acute observations and selection from nature his working methods had much in common with those of Whistler.
Having started his career as a naturalistic figure painter, during the 1890s Le Sidaner’s work became progressively more symbolist. After the turn of the century his paintings notably lack figures. However, as the cataloguer to the W J Holliday Collection of Neo-Impressionists astutely observes: ‘He did, however, often imply human presence in a set table or an open book, adding to the intimate yet mysterious quality of his painting.’ After 1900 Le Sidaner moved to Beauvais, 45 miles north of Paris, and within a couple of years he settled nearby at the picturesque hill-top village of Gerberoy. Although he had such a personal style of painting, many followers were attracted to Gerberoy and the village soon became re-populated as a colony of artists with Le Sidaner reluctantly at its head.