A pastoral scene with children and cattle by a pond by Emile Claus – £31,000 at Sworders.

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The views of the river from his cottage Zonneschijn (‘Sunshine’) in eastern Flanders became the inspiration for countless works throughout the rest of his life. One such river scene thought to date from Claus’ early years in Astene appeared recently at Essex saleroom Sworders (23% buyer’s premium).

The 21in x 3ft (53 x 92cm) oil on canvas, populated with children and grazing cattle in the early morning, had been purchased by the seller’s grandfather before the Second World War.

Offered in a June 25-26 Fine Interiors sale in Stansted Mountfitchet, it drew multiple bids online and offline against a £15,000-20,000 estimate before it was knocked down for £31,000.

Sworders described the work as combining Claus’ “careful attention to detail with a mastery of light which pre-figures his conversion to the greater freedoms of Impressionism in the decades that followed”.

It based the dating of the picture to the artist’s early period due to its similarity to other river scenes such as Le Bateau qui passe of 1883, also depicting children at the water’s edge, which sold at Sotheby’s in 2015 for £185,000 (with fees).

Own style

Inspired by the paintings of Monet and Pissarro, Claus began experimenting with Impressionism during the late 1880s, going on to develop his own brand of Luminist painting, founding the Vie et Lumière group in 1904.

An auction record for a painting by Claus was set at Christie’s in February 2018 when a Venetian scene, last offered on the market in 1934, sold for £596,750 (with fees) in London.