December 11, 2004

More Belgian Art

Presented below are some more images from the book Impressionism to Symbolism: the Belgian Avant-Garde 1880-1900, edited by MaryAnne Stevens and Robert Hoozee, (previously mentioned two entries ago). All of the images are details: click on them to see the pictures in full. The first is a drawing by Jean Delville (1867-1953), who began his career as a realist painter, but who was soon drawn towards symbolism and all things esoteric & occult. To my mind, his major paintings suffer from bombast & humourlessness, but this drawing, apparently done in Florence, is quite charming.

'Head of a Woman', by Jean Delville, charcoal and blue pencil on paper, 1894.
'Nocturnal Impression', by William Degouve de Nuncques, pastel on paper, 1896.

Above and below are works in pastel by William Degouve de Nuncques (1867-1935), a scion of an ancient, noble French family, largely self-taught as an artist, who produced a number of marvellously atmospheric works during the course of the 1890s. He is supposed to have said ‘To make a painting, all you need to do is to take some paints, draw some lines, and fill the rest up with feelings.’

'Box at the Theatre', mixed media, pastel and watercolour on paper on canvas, 1886.

Above is a painting by Alfred ‘Willy’ Finch (1854-1930), a friend of James Ensor’s from Ostend, who, by the way, is the man depicted in Ensor’s painting Russian Music, below. Finch’s work was strongly influenced by his exposure to Monet’s impressionism (in 1886), and by Seurat’s pointillism the following year. Finch worked almost exclusively on landscapes, and the picture above, entitled Box at the Theatre, is an elaborately-worked and enigmatic exception to this rule. Below is a drawing by Xavier Mellery (1845-1921), several of whose quietly meditative works attempted to depict l‘âme des choses, ‘the soul of things’. Mellery’s work exerted a strong influence on the young Fernand Khnopff.

'My Hallway, Light Effect', Xavier Mellery, black chalk and ink wash on paper, ca 1889.
Interior. The Man who Passes', Georges Le Brun, charcoal on paper, 1894.

Georges Le Brun (1873-1914) produced tranquilly ‘intimist’ interior scenes (such as the one above) not unlike those of Mellery. Like Mellery, his signature style was, in part, a product of a period spent living and working in a small, isolated community, in Le Brun’s case, a tiny village in the Ardennes called Xhoffrais. Below is an impressionistic, and wonderfully chilly scene by Félicien Rops (1833-1898). Rops is best-remembered for his satiric and erotic graphic works, but he was also, apparently, a prolific landscape painter.

'Snow at Thozée', Félicien Rops, oil on canvas, 1885.
'Robbery and Prostitution Dominate the World', Félicien Rops, watercolour and pencil on paper, 1880.

The watercolour above, Robbery and Prostitution Dominate the World, is more characteristic of Rops’ graphic style. Also typical is its portrayal of ‘Woman’ as irresistably venal, perverse and destructive. The piece was developed from a series of illustrations Rops made for Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly’s book Les Diaboliques. Below is a striking self-portrait by the self-taught Ostend artist Léon Spilliaert (1881-1946).

'Self-Portrait', Léon Spilliaert, indian ink, wash, gouache and pastel on paper, 1908.
'Night', Léon Spilliaert, indian ink, wash, and pastel on paper, 1908.

Lastly, above is a nocturnal scene of Spilliaert’s that I have posted once before. I probably wouldn’t have bothered putting together an entry on this subject at all if it weren’t for the (relatively) recent closure of the excellent ArtMagick site, which, for years, had comprehensive coverage of the Belgian symbolists (and much else besides), backed up with a very good selection of images. It’s very sad that they’ve had to close…

Posted by misteraitch at December 11, 2004 10:06 PM | TrackBack

Excellent post and an absolutely fabulous weblog! Thank you.

Posted by: Non Tibi Spiro on December 11, 2004 10:54 PM

I miss Artmagik!
So many beautiful things on your site!
Happy Holidays!!

Posted by: michelle on December 13, 2004 08:22 PM

Deeply strange & delightfully unsettling. Thanks for these.

Posted by: Dick Jones on December 17, 2004 07:32 AM

That was a great one. I have always felt that Belgian art (including Symbolist artists) has been underestimated.

Posted by: Loxias on March 23, 2005 07:36 AM

I've only seen this page of this weblog so far but I'm entranced - I've always loved Spilliaert's painting but these other Belgians seem equally wistful and beautiful. Thank you!

Posted by: Tom on June 7, 2005 01:59 AM

First: this an excellent blog! Thank you for the effort and love you invest in it!

I am a 'fan' (if that is the correct expression in this context) of Fernand Khnopff. You mention in your text a book by MaryAnne Stevens and Robert Hoozee. Can you please let me know the ISBN?

Many thanks in advance.

Best regards from Hamburg, Germany

Posted by: Arta Buneta on July 20, 2005 03:38 PM
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