Musée d'Orsay: Léon Spilliaert (1881-1946). Light and solitude

Léon Spilliaert (1881-1946). Light and solitude

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Spilliaert, a reader and illustrator of Verhaeren and Maeterlinck

Léon SpilliaertDyke at Night© Musée d'Orsay, dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Patrice Schmidt
Spilliaert was introduced to Verhaeren (1855–1916) by his publisher Edmond Deman and formed a close friendship with the writer. Verhaeren, who belonged to the older generation, was a mentor, offering encouragement, introducing him to the Parisian literary scene in 1904, and becoming one of the earliest supporters and collectors of his work.

In a letter written in Ostend on June 26, 1913, Spilliaert expresses the intensity of this friendship: “Whenever I took my leave of you, in my mind I would always recite the prayer: Lord protect me from dull gray hours so that I might always feel as if I had met Verhaeren, by which I mean full of love and elation.”

Maeterlinck (1862–1949) and Spilliaert never actually met, but the artist’s early works are close to the dark and stylized atmosphere of his fellow Belgian’s first plays, which he illustrated for a collector’s edition commissioned by Edmond Deman. The allusive and mysterious world of Maeterlinck’s writing, dominated by death, provided inspiration for the stand-alone sheets entitled “Maeterlinck Théâtre.” The dark and stylized mood of the Indian ink works produced by Spilliaert in the 1900s is close to that of Maeterlinck’s plays.

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