Crabeels had a special fondness for genre scenes in the tradition of the Flemish and Dutch school of the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 1860s, after training at the Academy of Antwerp under the supervision of the painters Jacobs and Linning, he broke away from the academic style of his teachers to become one of the promotors of Antwerp Realism. Crabeels’s work is comparable to that of his colleagues Meyers and Heymans, with whom he collaborated closely. In 1886-1887, he became a founding member of the Art Indépendant movement, which enabled the artists of the new generation to exhibit together and to throw off the straightjacket of the Northern pictorial tradition.
Crabeels embarked on his career with kermess scenes that herald the painting presented here. He decided to paint daily life and its anecdotal side, using village festivities and meetings as a pretext for increasing the number of figures in his work and for animating the composition. Crabeels’ painstaking concern for detail illustrates the subtlety of his observations on the bourgeois society of his time. He would subsequently develop a distinctive style of landscape painting that was focused on the Campine region and painted in a blend of realism and impressionism, as well can see already from the modernity of this painting’s theme.
This work was one of the Museum’s first acquisitions. It was bequeathed in 1877 by Benaiah Gibb, an important Montreal collector and a founding member of the Art Association, which was the precursor to the Museum.