Between 1917 and 1920, Léon Spilliaert explored lithography. He produced Hothouses in 1918 based on Maurice Maeterlinck’s collection of poems, Serres chaudes, published in 1889. Like this group of prints, his images of interiors produced in previous years simply depicting glazed canopies, windows closed against the darkness outside, and rampant vegetation reflect the melancholy world of “greenhouses of ennui,” “bell jars,” and other metaphors describing the poet’s soul.
At the outbreak of World War I, Spilliaert, who had joined the civic guard, was quickly invalided out. In 1916, the year in which his friend Émile Verhaeren died, he married Rachel Vergison, and their daughter Madeleine was born in 1917. His work gradually began to change and became more colourful. The artist slowly moved away from “gloomy and serious” notes. His work for Hothouses could be considered to mark his final interaction with the allusive and anguished world of Symbolism.