11423 LA VAGUE TUMULTEUSE BY RENÉ DEKEYSER (1883–1936) Belgian. Early Twentieth Century. Measurements: Framed: Height: 58 3/4″ (149.2 cm); Width: 86 1/4″ (219 cm). Sight Size: Height: 48 3/4″ (123.8 cm); Width: 76″ (193 cm).

Oil on canvas.

Signed lower right:
René Dekeyser

Inscribed on the back:
La Vague Tumultueuse / R Dekeyser

René Dekeyser (Letterhoutem, 1883–Louvain, 1936) was a Belgian painter and sculptor, who studied under the impressionist artists Joseph Caron and Georges Lemmen. He was a founding member of the Royal Art Circle of Louvain, and his works were exhibited in Belgium in Louvain, Brussels, Liège, Huy and Spa; in Metz, France; and in London. He also served as the founder, director and editor of “Revue de la Presse,” a patriotic newspaper established in Louvain in 1915.1

Dekeyser’s preference was for Romantic landscapes that captured the Sublime, an aesthetic theory in art defined by both the overwhelming power of nature and its corresponding emotional impact on the viewer, particularly the dual qualities of fear and attraction, horror and beauty. This moment of maximum tension is felt in the present painting, at the instant the tumultuous wave is cresting. The concentration of energy in its peak is emphasized by the use of stark light among an otherwise dark and stormy seascape.

Around the time this remarkable picture was painted, in 1905 Debussy debuted his iconic impressionistic musical masterpiece “La Mer.” Debussy took some inspiration from Hokusai’s colored woodblock image of ‘The Great Wave’ and, indeed, the composer used the picture on the cover page of the printed score. Interestingly and unusually, this rendition also uses the color green to depict the water (figure 1). This fact indicates how Japonismé and Hokusai’s work still exerted considerable influence over European art long after the country opened up to the west in 1853. It is therefore possible that this strikingly powerful work found its inspiration in Hokusai’s art.


  1. Le Dictionnaire Des Peintres Belges Du 14. Siècle a Nos Jours: 1. Bruxelles: La Renaissance du livre, 1995.

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