Developments in the 19th Century



 




Art Styles in 19th century - Art Map


 




SYMBOLISM

in

Belgium and the Netherlands





(Between Romanticism and Expressionism)


 



 


 

 


C o n t e n t s:
 
The Great Upheaval
France
Great Britain and the United States
Belgium and the Netherlands
German - speaking Countries and Scandinavia
The Slav Countries
The Mediterranean Countries
Post-Symbolism
 

 

 

collections:
Felicien Rops
Fernand Khnopff
Henry De Groux
Xavier Mellery
Emile Fabry
Jean Delville
Georges Minne
Degouve de Nuncques
Leon Frederic
Leon Spilliaert
Constant Montald
Jan Toorop
Johan Thorn-Prikker
Richard Roland Holst
 
 





Belgium and the Netherlands

 


 

 

Both Emile Fabry (1865-1966) and Jean Delville (1867-1953) proclaimed themselves "idealist" painters and strove to elevate the public through their art. Their work is consequently guided by edifying principles rather than by formal invention. In this respect, they are representative of much Symbolist art. Both displayed their work at the Rose+Croix Salon and were at one point influenced by Peladan.

Fabry lived to be over a hundred; he left a corpus of highly mannered works, all depressive faces and strangely swollen heads. These evoke the theatrical world of Maurice Maeterlinck; in the words of Felicien Rops, Maeterlinck's works were suited to "women of the North, with brackish hair, hydrocéphalie foreheads and other-worldly eyes, part angel and part seal".
The monstrous creatures of his painting The Gestures fit this description perfectly. Fabry himself described the period before 1900 as "the period of my nightmare", acknowledging the influences of Wagner, Maeterlinck, and Edgar Allan Poe.
   


Emile Fabry
The Initiation
 
   
   
Emile Fabry

(b Verviers, 30 Dec 1865; d Woluwe-Saint-Pierre-lez-Bruxelles, 1966).

Belgian painter and designer. He studied at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels under Jean-François Portaels, and worked with the designer Cir Jacques. His early Symbolist work, influenced by Maurice Maeterlinck (1862–1949), expresses anguish through its depiction of wild-eyed and deformed figures. He described this as his ‘nightmare period’, exemplified by The Offering (1894; Brussels, Mus. A. Mod.). In 1892 Fabry took part in the first exhibition of the group ‘Pour l’Art’, which he founded with Jean Delville, and in 1893 and 1895 exhibited at the Salons de la Rose+Croix, established by Joséphin Péladan. In the late 1890s he began to work with the Art Nouveau architects Victor Horta and Paul Hankar. At this point his work became more serene and increasingly monumental. He designed the interior of the sculptor Philippe Wolfers’s villa, built by Hankar, and also the interior of Horta’s mansion Aubecq.

 
   

Emile Fabry

 



Emile Fabry
The Gestures
 

 
These depressive faces and strangely swollen heads evoke the theatrical world of Maurice Maeterlinck; in the words of Felicien Rons, Maeterlinck's works were suited to "women of the North, with brackish hair, hydrocephalic foreheads and other-worldly eyes, part angel and part seal".  

 

 


Emile Fabry
The Judgement of Paris
 
   


Emile Fabry
The Offering
 
   

 
  Emile Fabry
La Gaine
 
     


Emile Fabry
Orpheus


Emile Fabry
The France
 
 

 

 
 

Emile Fabry
Harmonies
 
     
 

Emile Fabry
Pour l´Art
 
     



 
 
  Emile Fabry
The Thread Of Life
 
     
 
  Emile Fabry
Nok a tengerparton
 
 
   

Delville was a devotee of the occult who published a book entitled Dialogue among Ourselves. Cabbalistic, Occult and Idealist Arguments (Dialogue entre nous. Argumentation kabbalistique, occultiste, idealiste, 1895). In it, he developed various notions held by occultists: he believed in a divine fluid, reincarnation, dangerous telepathic forces, invultuation and ecstasy. These convictions guided his hand in works such as The Angel of Splendor; a rather over-deliberate vision of ecstasy, or Satan's Treasures, in which luxurious bodies lie sleeping among the seaweed and coral as Satan, with a dancer's agility, bestrides and takes possession of them.


Jean Delville

(see collection)

Jean Delville
Portrait of Madame Stuart Merrill
1892
 

Jean Delville
The Idol of Perversity
1891
 

 

Jean Delville

(see collection)



Jean Delville
Satan's Treasures
1895
 

 

The work of Georges Minne (1866-1941) exemplifies the anaemia and prostration of his age. It dwells insistently upon subjects such as mourning and impotence: a mother weeps over her dead child, adolescents are stilled amid the briars, men and women are racked and contorted by guilt. It was not by chance that the artist came to this sort of subject. Infant mortality was high at the time, but the mother with her dead child may also reflect the lack of spiritual perspectives experienced during the last decades of the century. Minne's form, radiating the intense and suffering religiosity of his country, is characterized by often painfully affected references to postures and attitudes in the work of the Flemish primitives. Copies of his Fountain of the Kneeling Youths (1898) are now to be seen in Brussels, Ghent, Vienna and Essen. It is probably the best work of his Symbolist period; elsewhere, the contorted gestures, the hysterically knotted hands, convey the idea of pathos rather than pathos itself. Minne stands on one of the outer limits of Symbolist sensibility.

 
   



Georges Minne

 



Georges Minne
Fountain of the Kneeling Youths
1898


 
 
   
George Minne

(b Ghent, 30 Aug 1866; d Laethem-Saint-Martin, 18 Feb 1941).
Belgian sculptor, draughtsman and illustrator. He studied at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Ghent (1879–86) and worked in Ghent (until 1895) and Brussels (1895–9) before settling in Laethem-Saint-Martin, a village near Ghent. His first works were delicate sculptures and sparse drawings of grieving and injured figures. The emotional power of these works was recognized by many Symbolist poets including Maurice Maeterlinck, Charles Van Lerberghe and Grégoire Le Roy, who saw in them an expression of their own pessimistic view of life. He illustrated several of their collections of poetry (e.g. Grégoire Le Roy: Mon Coeur pleure d’autrefois (Paris, 1889); Maurice Maeterlinck: Serres chaudes (Paris, 1889)). From 1890 he was involved with the progressive element among the artists and authors of Brussels. He exhibited for the first time that year under the auspices of the avant-garde society Les XX in Brussels, and two years later he participated in the Salon de la Rose+Croix in Paris. His principal supporter was Emile Verhaeren.

 
   



George Minne
The Outcast
1898

 

 
 
 




 
     
    Degouve de Nuncques

(see collection)
   
William Degouve de Nuncques
The Pink House
     
   
William Degouve de Nuncques
The Angels of Night
   
 
    Leon Frederic

(see collection)
   
Leon Frederic
The Lake, the Sleeping Water
   
 
    Leon Spilliaert

(see collection)
   
    Leon Spilliaert
The Forbidden Fruit
 
   
 

The intimate, dreamy works of William Degouve de Nuncques (1867-1935) show signs of the influence of both Mellery and Khnopff.

The Degouve de Nuncques
were an old French family who settled in Belgium during the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. Degouve de Nuncques' father was a giant of a man who cultivated his eccentricity; in the words of the painter's friend, Henry de Groux, he "detests anything that represents authority, loves animals even more than mankind, and walks about with a loaded shotgun to shoot at neighbors bent on harming his cats."

He encouraged his son to daydream, thus favouring the development of a talent which owed more to imagination than to technical facility.
Degouve de Nuncques' work is sometimes awkward, but a painting like The Pink House is singularly evocative of the feeling of homecoming elicited by a warmly lit house under a starry sky. Many of his works may be considered poetic evocations of childish daydreams, The Pink House among them. There is a childish innocence to these nocturnal visions in which a black swan sails silently past ivy-covered tree trunks, or angels kiss in the squares at night (The Angels of Night) while chestnut trees lift their white candle-sticks in the moonlight.

Leon Frederic (1865-1940), Belgian painter, reached Symbolism through an overexacting realism. Torn between Symbolism and naturalism, Frederic exhibited at the Brussels Salon in 1878, then with the Essor circle. In 1898 his works were exhibited at the Salon d'Art Ideahste. He also painted vast sociopolitical canvases.
Frederic, an idealist painter torn between Symbolism and academic realism and between lofty concepts and social commitment, produced remarkable works of symbolic depth.

Born, like Ensor, in Ostend, Leon Spilliaert (1881-1946) was the son of a wealthy perfumer. He was the last of the Belgian Symbolists. For many years he was afflicted with acute anxiety; his insomnia drove him to wander nightlong through deserted streets and along empty beaches. He haunted the street where Ensor lived, to the point where the latter remarked that he could never take a stroll on his own because Spilliaert was always at his door.

Spilliaert's work achieved its characteristic form while he was still quite young. By the age of 23, he was creating expressive and simplified forms of great authority; his singular use of visual rhythms and voids on occasion communicates a sense of anxiety worthy of Alfred Hitchcock. One such painting is Vertigo, Magic Staircase (1908) in which a female figure descends a nightmare staircase of ever larger steps. Other works stress a sense of solitude enhanced by endless empty beaches and the silent sea. The horizontality of the Belgian coast is made to seem as immutable as fate.
Spilliaert's mood shifted with the passing years. His marriage, the birth of his daughter, and his move to Brussels during the twenties gave his work a new orientation. As early as 1904 he had turned against his Symbolist works and was tempted to destroy them. Fortunately they survive, original in themselves and, like Munch, a significant point of transition between Art Nouveau and Expressionism.
  


Leon Spilliaert

(see collection)
 
 
Leon Spilliaert
Moonlight and Lights
1909
 
Leon Spilliaert
Vertigo, Magic Staircase
1908
 
Leon Spilliaert
The Posts
1910

 
 

Suffering from insomnia, this late Symbolist prowled by night through the streets and along the deserted beaches that he depicts. By the age of 23, he was creating expressive and simplified forms of great authority; his singular use of visual rhythms and voids on occasion communicates a sense of anxiety worthy of Alfred Hitchcock. One such painting is Vertigo in which a female figure descends a nightmare staircase of ever larger steps. Other works stress a sense of solitude enhanced by endless empty beaches and the silent sea. The horizontality of the Belgian coast is made to seem as immutable as fate. But humanity is present in the form of the truculent, metaphorical eroticism inhabiting this desolation, as in The Posts and The Forbidden Fruit.
 
     

Constant
Montald

(b Ghent, 4 Dec 1862; d Brussels, 1944).
 
Belgian painter, illustrator and teacher. He studied at the Koninklijke Academie of Ghent, and first made his mark by winning the Prix de Rome in 1886 with Diagorus Borne in Triumph. This success allowed him to travel throughout Europe and the Near East. In 1896 he took part in the first Salon d’Art Idéaliste, organized by Jean Delville, and exhibited there regularly. In the same year he became professor of decorative art at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, a post he held for the next 37 years. He was a founder-member of L’Art Monumental in 1920. In 1928 he illustrated the Legend of Uilenspiegel and Lamme Goedzak (Brussels) by Charles de Coster.

 
 



Constant Montald
La fontaine de l'inspiration

   
 



Constant Montald
The Nest
1893

 



Constant Montald
Jardin sous la neige

 



Constant Montald
Nymphes dansant

 



Constant Montald
Femmes a la fontaine

 



Constant Montald
Ophelia

1893

 
 

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