Nestor Cambier

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Nestor Cambier (1879–1957) was a Belgian artist and draftsman whose portraits were compared favourably with those of John Singer Sargent but who now is largely forgotten. He also painted landscapes, city and interior views, still-lives, murals and stained glass, and also produced numerous pencil and chalk drawings.

Nestor Cambier in 1930

Early life and training[edit]

He was born in Couillet (now part of Charleroi) in Belgium. He studied at the college of Ixelles, Brussels before entering the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, studying portraiture under the masters Joseph Stallaert and Gustave Vanaise until 1900. At twenty-one, he had already exhibited at the Brussels Salon, with a portrait of a young girl and a landscape.[1]

Professional life[edit]

In 1903, N. Cambier exhibited at the Triennial Salon of Beaux Arts at Brussels with pictures of a Brabançon innkeeper, a colourful Bazaar, a large tableau of the Cid and the Leper, and a study in pastels of Salome.[1]

He went to the United States (1906–1909), working first at Ascenzo’s studios. He continued to paint portraits and in 1907 he exhibited at the Academy of Fine Art in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he won the John Wanamaker prize. Later, he designed large stained glass windows for the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart,[2] ,[3] Newark, New Jersey, while it was still under construction. (However recent investigation shows that delays in construction resulted in the 214 stained glass windows not being completed until 1950, by when they had been re-designed by the maker, Franz Zettler.[4])

He returned to Belgium in 1909, where he painted further portraits and extended his painting to landscapes. In 1914, he held an exhibition of his works at Blankenberge, Belgium, where he was almost trapped when Germany invaded Belgium at the start of the First World War, and which resulted in the loss of many of his canvasses.[1]

He then spent 19 years intermittently in the United Kingdom (1914–1933), and in 1915 and 1916 he donated some of his works for auction on behalf of the British Red Cross, reaching prices comparable with the best English painters. In 1923, he became a member of the North British Academy of Arts in 1923. This period was notable in that he became a resident guest of Sir Henry and Lady Barber at Culham Court, near Henley, Oxfordshire. During this time, he painted numerous portraits of different kinds of Lady Barber (1869–1932), as well as pictures of the interior of Culham Court and the surrounding countryside.

Posthumous fame[edit]

Following his death in Brussels in 1957, a retrospective show was held in Brussels in 1967 at the Baron René Steens gallery. His works are allegedly displayed in Birmingham, London, Paris, Rheims and Lausanne.[5][6]

Perhaps the largest collection of paintings (25, plus numerous photographs and memorabilia) by Cambier are held by The Barber Institute of Fine Arts which was founded by Dame Martha Constance Hattie Barber (1869–1933) at Birmingham University, who married the solicitor and property developer, William Henry Barber, a highly successful businessman who made his fortune in the expanding suburbs of Birmingham. By his mid 1930s he and Lady Barber were able to retire to Culham Court, an 18th-century estate in Oxfordshire. Between 1914 and 1930, Cambier was a frequent visitor and resident at Culham Court where he painted landscapes of the estate and painted eighteen portraits commissioned by Lady Barber as presents for her husband. Lord Barber died in 1927, and Lady Barber founded the Institute in 1932 to which all the paintings were transferred. Otherwise, all his other paintings appear to be scattered and in private hands.[7]




Dated works[1][8][edit]

Paintings held by the Barber Institute of Fine Arts marked *

1900 Portrait of a young girl and a landscape
1901 La Danse de Salome 19.1” x 10.6” Pastel
1906 Vue du Pont de Brooklyn, New York 15.7” x 23.2” Oil/canvas
1907 Portraits in the United States
1908 Stained glass for Newark Cathedral, New Jersey, USA
1909 Portrait of Cardinal Mercier, popularised as a print
1910 Portrait of the violinist César Thomson
1911 Portrait of the minister Jules Renkin
1912 Procession in Brabant
1913 Landscape of the surroundings of Durbuy
1914–1923 *15 Portraits of Lady Barber including one of her in a riding-habit, shown at the Royal Academy
1916–1917 *6 paintings of gardens and rock gardens at Culham Court
1917 The Triumph of the Allies, a huge mural for the military institute at Port-Villez (Eure)
1917 *An interior at Culham Court
1917? Les Blue Bells dans la forêt (Culham Court)
1917? The dining-room at Culham Court
1917? *Le Miroir (Culham Court)
1920? *Portrait of an unidentified widow
1924 Louis (owned by L. Calvete) 13" x 12" Pastel
1930 Salon at the house of the Duke of Westminster 35.5" x 40.6" Oil/panel
1930 Drawing dedicated to I.Calvete
1931 * A Flower Piece
1935 Painting of Queen Astrid

Undated pictures[9][edit]

unless otherwise indicated

Le combat de Kato.[1] 9.1" x 11" Oil
Napoléon à l'intérieur de la bibliothèque de la Malmaison 14.96" x 18.90" Oil
Jeune femme en blanc dans un intérieur. 16.54" x 12.60" Oil
Coin de mon jardin 16" x 12" Oil
Elégante au jardin 15.7" x 11.8" Oil
Elégante dans un intérieur 14.2" x 11" Oil
Fillette assise sur le canapé rouge 18.5" x 14.2" Oil
La salon de la Comtesse de Bousies á Bruxelles 9.1" x 11.4" Oil
Le chien au nœud vert 20.1" x 9.8" Oil
Les baigneuses 11" x 16.3" Oil
Troupeau de vaches et Moutons dans les ruines 13.4" x 17.3" Oil
Vallée de la Meuse ensoleillée. 15.4" x 19.3" Oil
Bord de Meuse 9.1" x 11" Oil
Vue de Bruges 9.3" x 14.6" Oil
Le diner este servi 65" x 52" Oil/Panel
Interior of a church 23.62" x 19.69" Oil/Panel
Grand place de Bruxelles Oil/Panel
Church Interior. 23.6" x 19.7" Panel
Intérieur 19.7" x 25.6" Panel
L'alcove verte 12".6 x 16.1" Panel
Intérieur 19.7" x 25.6" Panel
Intérieur d'Eglise 23.6" x 19.7" Panel
La Promenade Oil/Canvas
Dans de jardin de roses 25.2" x 19.7" Oil/Canvas
Paysage enneigé avec église[10] 32" x 41.2" Oil/Canvas
Intérieur 12.2" x 11" Canvas
Intérieur 12.2" x 11" Canvas
Untitled 25.6" x 21.7" Painting
Maternité 18.90" x 12.20" Pastel
L'enfant à l'orange 21.06" x 10.24" Pastel
Salon of the Belgian Embassy in London 17.3" x 23.6" Pastel
L'enfant á l'orange 21.3" x 10.2" Pastel
Park View 5.5" x 8.3 Pastel
L'église de Dave sur Meuse 13" x 10.2" Drawing
"Forést" (paysage) 5.3" x 7.3" Drawing
Swans gliding on the water alongside the Saint-Jean Hôpital at Bruges. (Owned by Mme. Ledieux in Paris?}
Grange de l'Abbaye Ter Doest a Lissewege 13.6" X 15.6" Charcoal
L'Eglise a Landelies (Charleroi) 15.4" x 13.8" Crayon
Sans Titre (Femme aux Chaussures Roses) 16.3" x 9.6" Wash
Sans Titre (Paysage) 13.8" x 15" Pencil
Sans Titre (Interieur) 11" x 13.2") Pencil
Vechmael (Limbourg) 15.7" x 13.8" Crayon
La salon de la Comtesse de Bousies à Bruxelles 23" x 29"
Vue de la Tamise à Londres
The choir of l'Eglise Sta-Croix at Ixelles
Silene drunk held by a faun and a bacchante

Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Illustrations of volumes by R. Bazin, Comte Carton de Wiart (Mes Vacances av Congo), Charcot.

Original drawing on the fly leaf of a catalogue. Type Brugeois, portrait sketch in colour pencil ca. 9 x 7 cm.

Vivid portrait sketch made by the artist while visiting the Bruges Salon of 1913-14, made on the fly-leave of the Salon Catalogue: Cercle Artistique Brugeois, XXXVIe Salon, in-8°, 21.5 x 11 cm, stapled, original stiff wrapper. Nestor Cambier was represented by 5 paintings. Of these 4 were marked in red by him with the remark that they were stolen by the Germans at Blankenberg.[11]

Undated portraits[1][edit]

Sir Douglas Dawson, secretary of the Order of the Garter

Baron Cartier de Marchienne, Belgian Ambassador in London
Joe Chamberlain, in the gallery of the Union Committee Room
Mrs Edward Tchurlow, shown at the Belgian Art Exhibition at Brighton in 1930
Countess Pierrefeu Villeneuve
Baron of Lambert
The Viscounts of Pierrefeu
Sir William Holdsworth, painted at the University of Oxford
The Dean of the Law Faculty at Birmingham.


  1. ^ a b c d e f Reprint from the journal "Le Thyrse", Brussels, 1934. Copies of this document are scarce but a pdf replica of the original in French, or a pdf English translation are obtainable from Louis Calvete
  2. ^ Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Newark, New Jersey
  3. ^
  4. ^ The Stained Glass of the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Newark, New Jersey by T.E.McCarrick and R.F. Gronki
  5. ^
  6. ^ Piron: Dictionnaire et Signature, Arto
  7. ^
  8. ^ PCF (Public Catalogue Foundation) of Oil Paintings in Public Ownership, Birmingham Collections 2011
  9. ^
  10. ^ (Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts No. inventaire 12039)
  11. ^

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