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

Léon Spilliaert (1881-1946). Light and solitude

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Ostend figures, shadow theatre

Léon SpilliaertThe White Clothes© Mu.ZEE, Cedric Verhelst, 2019
In 1908–9, Spilliaert rented a studio on the Visserskaai (“Fishermen’s Wharf”) with broad vistas of the harbour through the window. His attention was captured neither by the bustling port area and the fashionable appearance of the seaside resort, nor the harsh working conditions, but by the fishermen’s wives, whom he transformed into archetypes for waiting. These dark figures are often seen from behind, scanning the sea from the wharves, silhouetted against the water. Either singly or in groups, these figures always seem to be imprisoned in their melancholy solitude.

Spilliaert revisits this radical formal simplicity when he turns his attention to the traditional Ostend carnival. The protagonists in loose robes resembling white shrouds or in their dominoes become monumental silhouettes that look as though they are floating and lend a strangely theatrical air to the scene.

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