Referencing Maeterlinck’s play Intérieur (1894), which was illustrated by Spilliaert, this group of works conjures up avantgarde theater at the turn of the century.
Lugné-Poe, the founder of the Théâtre de l’OEuvre, who staged plays by Maeterlinck and Ibsen with contributions from Nabi artists, wanted to make “the life of souls” visible.
Spilliaert painted solitary, disembodied, ghostly and often lugubrious figures in confined, oppressive spaces. Misery and Alone evoke the tortured Expressionist world of Edvard Munch, whereas The Absinthe Drinker —a modern subject painted by Manet, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Rops, and Picasso—seems to have come back from the dead to suck the lifeblood from the observer with her wild gaze. Sometimes, by contrast, figures’ eyes are not visible, like the ghostly young woman sitting facing the wall between two windows. This is a universe permeated by death, as is particularly apparent in the bedroom with its shroud-like white bed.