Art Timeline  
  1 c. 15000 - 5000 BC Prehistoric Art
  2 5000 BC - 5ОО BC The Art of the Ancient Kingdoms of Egypt - Aegean Art
  3-4 5ОО вс - 12th century The Art of the Greeks
  5-6 5ОО вс - 12th century Italic Art
  7-8-9 12th century (1100-1199) The Early Christians  Art - Byzantine Art
  10-11 13th century (1200-1299) Gothic Art
  12 14th century (1300-1399) Gothic Art - International Style
  13 15th century (1400-1499) The Early Renaissance
  14 16th century (1500-1599) The High Renaissance
  15-16 16th century (1500-1599) Mannerism
  17-18-19-20 17th century (1600-1699) Baroque
  21-22 18th century (1700-1799) Rococo
  23-24-25-26-27-28-29 19th century(1800–1899) Neoclassical - Romanticism
    19th century (1863-1899) Impressionism Timeline
    19th century (1860-1899) Simbolism
    20th century(1900-1999) ART OF THE 20TH CENTURY
19th century (1800-1899)
  Neoclassicism and Romanticism
Realism, Impressionism and
Belgium and the Netherlands 
Belgium became an independent state in 1830, and during the half-century that concerns us here was a crossroads of commerce and culture. The French language spoken in one part of the country favoured ties with France, but Belgium was also receptive to the influence of Germany and Britain. Between 1860 and 1914, the country enjoyed unprecedented industrial and economic development, significantly aided by King Leopold II's creation of a state in the Congo basin (it was founded in 1878 and remained his private property until 1У0У). This influx of wealth helps to explain the sudden development of the arts in Belgium.

Culturally and socially, the country had not followed the same path as France, its closest neighbour. Historical circumstance, notably the fifteen year period after Waterloo when it was part of the predominantly Calvinist and Dutch-speaking Netherlands, had enhanced the importance of Catholicism among all social classes. These economic and socio-cultural factors clearly affected the development of Belgian art of the period and in particular the solitary and exalted mood characteristic of Belgian Symbolism. Another factor was a wealthy and hospitable bourgeoisie, which took an active interest in literature and music. All this created an environment favourable to Symbolist art.

Antoine Wiertz (1806-1865) was an artist of uneven quality who neverthelesscontrived, with the financial assistance of the Belgian government, to build himself a studio in the shape of a Greek temple; it now houses his Museum. Wiertz embodies the transition from Romanticism to Symbolism. The Beautiful Rosine (1847) is academic in technique but of a conception unusual for its time; the subject of death and the maiden had, of course, often been treated by German artists of the 16th century. It depicts a buxom nude gazing placidly at a skeleton whose skull is labelled with the work's title. The "Beautiful Rosine" is not the woman we thought she was. Wiertz's work affords amusing insights into contemporary attitudes. The devil attending The Novel Reader (1853) speeds her on the way to perdition with nothing more nefarious than the novels of Alexandre Dumas.

Somewhat surprisingly, the same subject was also dealt with by the witty and cynical Felicien Rops (1833-1898) in an 1878-1880 water-colour entitled The Librarian, though no author is singled out for election by the devil. Rops was an astonishing virtuoso graphic artist who exploited some of the commonplaces of the Symbolist repertoire with detachment and theatrical flair.


Antoine Wiertz
The Beautiful Rosine
Somewhat surprisingly, the same subject was also dealt with by the witty and cynicalFelicien Rops (1833-1898) in an 1878-1880 water-colour entitled The Librarian, though no author is singled out for election by the devil. Rops was an astonishing virtuoso graphic artist who exploited some of the commonplaces of the Symbolist repertoire with detachment and theatrical flair.

 He began his career in quite different vein, producing caricatures and humorous drawings for d satirical weekly Uylenspiegel, which he founded in 1856. Thereaftt like a great cinйaste, he sensed the drift of the cliches of his times and played upon them in masterly fashion. One constant in his work thus Woman, Death and the Devil, a theme that he handles with exuberantly provocative irony. On occasion the theme was imposed, in his illustrations for books such as Barbey d'Aurevilly's Les Diaboliques. More often it derives from his own imagination, as in Death at the Ball (1865-1875), which he began at about the time Gustaves  Moreau was painting his Oedipus and the Sphinx. Rops here shew grater formal inventiveness than Moreau, seven years his senior; he might be said to anticipate Expressionism. His The Temptation of Saint Anthony and Pornokrates (both 1878) are similarly original conceptions.
Discussing Pornokrates in a letter to Rops, the Brussels lawyer and novelist Edmond Picard, who owned the work, spoke of "the feminine being (I'etre feminin) who dominates our age and is so amazingly different from her ancestors..." The phrase is conventional, but the very recurrence of cliches is what makes them significant. Ropsalso pandered to public demand by exploiting the cliches of his day, and it is a pleasure to watch his keen wit at work. Full of derision, his work also bears the imprint of that immense facility which, by his own admission, prevented him from reaching the heights in his chosen art form.

Felicien Rops

born July 7, 1833, Namur, Belg. died Aug. 22, 1898, Essonnes, France 

Belgian painter and graphic artist remembered primarily for his prints.
Rops attended the University of Brussels. His early work on student periodicals attracted the attention of publishers, and he began to produce illustrations, contributing some of his finest lithographs to the satirical journal Uylenspiegel in 1859–60. About 1860 he went to Paris, where he worked in the studio of Henri-Alfred Jacquemart. Returning to Brussels, he founded the short-lived International Society of Etchers. In 1865 he produced his famous “Absinthe Drinker” and in 1871 “Lady with the Puppet.”
After 1874 Rops lived in Paris, where he became a friend of the poet Charles Baudelaire. Devoting himself principally to illustrating books, he also published Cent croquis pour rйjouir les honnкtes gens (“One Hundred Sketches to DelightSolid Citizens”). Among his notable book illustrations are those for Lйgendes flamandes (“Flemish Legends”), by C. de Coster; Jeune France (“Young France”), by Thйophile Gautier; Les Diaboliques (Weird Women), by Barbey d'Aurevilly; Zadig, by Voltaire; and the poems of Stйphane Mallarmй. He joined the revolutionary art society of Les Vingt formed at Brussels in 1884.
Many of Rops's etchings are erotic or pornographic in tone and depict an imaginary underworld or subjects of social decadence. Despite his peculiarities, Rops was a printmaker of brilliant technique and original content whose handling of dry point (etching directly on the plate) marks him as one of the masters of the medium. He was also one of the first modern etchers to revive the neglected medium of soft-ground etching, in which the etching ground is melted into and mixed with tallow, producing the effect of lines drawn with a soft pencil or chalk.


Felicien Rops. La vieja historia
The father of Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921) was an Austrian aristocrat who chose to reside in Belgium and was appointed Deputy Prosecutor of Bruges. As a result, Khnopffspent the first seven years of his life in that sublime but stagnant city; it appears in transfigured form in a number of his works. Khnopff carefully moulded his public persona, becoming a prize specimen of the dandy. He was not without wit and simultaneously pursued the profession of society portraitist. Around 1900, like des Esseintes, he drew up plans for a villa of geometrical lines and had it built for himself. Unfortunately, it has not survived. His motto, "on n'a que soi" ("one has only oneself"), made a principle of his overt narcissism. Khnopff showed his work at the Rose+Croix Salon at the invitation of Sar Peladan but his greatest triumph came when he exhibited at the Vienna Secession in 1898. Reacting to one such exhibition, the critic Felix Feneon singled him out for criticism: "M. Fernand Khnopff and a good number of his fellow exhibitors cannot be made to grasp the fact that a painting should first and foremost seduce by its rhythms, that a painter shows excessive humility in choosing subjects rich in literary meaning, that three pears on a table cloth by Paul Cezanne are moving and sometimes mystical, and that, when they paint it, the Wagnerian Valhalla is no more interesting than the House of Representatives." The parallel with Odilon Redon's self-imposed strictures is clear.

Fernand Khnopff
Study of Woman

Fernand Khnopff
Study of Woman

Fernand Khnopff
The Secret

Photograph of Marguerite Khnopff, the model for The Secret.

Fernand Khnopff
Though Khnopff indulged in the academic cliches of the age, in certain works he transcended them and showed real formal invention. One such work is Memories, a large pastel dating from 1889. Khnopff's superlative technique is central to the ambiguous charm of this painting. The model for all seven figure was Marguerite Khnopff, the artist's sister. Photographs often served Khnopff as studies for his paintings; Memories shows almost photographic precision of technique. Anticipating certain of today's mixed-media trends, Khnopff also retouched his own photos.

These photos, which formed the basis for Memories, were taken by Khnopff himself with a technically sophisticated camera containing a 
lens by Steinhel of Munich. Khnopff was in love with his sister and attached great importance to the fabrics (often embellished with gold) 
in which he dressed her for photo sessions in which he himself determined her poses.
It has been said that he was in love with his sister; she perhaps became a second self within the hermetic bubble of his narcissism. This identification might also account for the androgynous ambiguity of a number of the women he painted; these are generally endowed with too large a chin to seem entirely feminine. Such is the case with the painting known variously as Art, or The Sphinx, or The Caresses (1896)

Fernand Khnopff
The Abandoned Town
The two faces revealed by the artist's meticulously academic technique, the panther with a woman's head and the youth leaning on his winged stick, his gaze lost in the distance, are typical of the way the artist handles features and expressions. One is initially struck by the portentous tone of the work, but it is the rapt absorption of the two faces placed cheek-to-cheek that continues to haunt the eye.
The title of I Lock my Door upon Myself (1891) is a quotation from a poem by Christina Rossetti, Dante Gabriel's sister; the painting expresses an indulgent pleasure in solitude, visible in the dreamy self-absorption of the woman and the labyrinthine setting over which presides a bust of Hypnos, the god of sleep. The composition, with its arrangement of horizontal and diagonal lines carefully centered around the pale gaze of the young woman, is a perfect embodiment of the claustrophobic mood typical of much Symbolist work.

Another painting by Khnopff anticipates the kind of world's end fantasy that the cinema so readily exploits. In The Abandoned Town (1904), the effect is the more telling because the scene is silent and contemplative. We are set before a scenic square in Bruges; no sign of life is apparent. Even the statue has been removed from the pedestal. Under a pale brown sky, the rising waters of the sea seep relentlessly across the square, covering the cobblestones with their serene invasion. The spectator thus becomes the sole witness of the "end of the world". Bruges here assumes symbolic status. The city that had died to trade at the end of the 16th century under the joint effect of a hostile political power and the silting up of the River Zwyn now stands for the decadence of a modern society which, at the height of its economic power, was indeed destined for military and cultural disaster.

James Ensor
Christ's Entry into Brussels

This huge canvas is one Ensor's masterpieces. The artist identifies with Christ, 
who is here given a rowdy triumph utterrly at odds with all that he represents.
James Ensor (1860-1949) is too potent and fertile an artist to fit the categories available to theory. He clearly belongs among the Symbolists, but rather after the fashion of the poet Jules Laforgue. Both Ensor and Laforgue use their powers of derision to unmask and disintegrate the threadbare, skeletal shibboleths revered by their more solemn and blinkered colleagues.
Born in Ostend, the son of an English father and a Belgian mother, James Ensorreceived a hostile reception not only from the critics but also from his own supposedly avant-garde colleagues. He escaped expulsion from the Salon des XX in 1889 by a single vote - his own. It was around 1900, when he was past forty, that Ensor finally won the recognition until then denied him. He was awarded the title of Baron, but his belated success had an unexpected consequence: Ensor's inspiration ran dry and the man survived the artist.
By a strange coincidence, Ensor had the same childhood experience as Leonardo da Vinci: a large black bird flew in through the window and settled on the crib of the terrified child.

Ensor's shopkeeping parents sold toys, articles for the beach, souvenirs and carnival masks. It is these masks, along with sardonic and insolent skeletons, that provide the dominant theme of Ensor's work. The ferocious sarcasm of his paintings, drawings and prints is, however, balanced by the pathos of his tragic representations of a Christ who figures as the artist's alter ego. 
This identification, also to be found in the work of Paul Gauguin and Henry de Groux, may appear excessive if not indeed blasphemous. It is no doubt meant to assert the artist's singularity. But it also touches upon a rather less obvious psychological process. It is something of a commonplace to note that the ego is not fully formed at birth. It takes shape throughout childhood, moulded by the sometimes painful conflict between the anarchy of the drives on the one hand and the sometimes intolerable demands of the cultural ideal on the other. An ego that struggles to conform to accepted norms and is thus led, as artists often are, to take some other, less familiar route, may be tempted to regard itself as both hero and victim. This is why Christ's final triumph, the triumph of the "stone rejected by the builders and which is become the corner stone," stands as the model of a victory accomplished by sacrifice and voluntary suffering.

In Ensor's paintings, Christ's persecutors wear the features of the critics who attacked his work - names saved from oblivion only by the artist's resentment. But even the ultimate triumph of the painter-as-Christ, Ensor's colossal Christ's Entry into Brussels, is a hollow one. His diminutive, mild-featured Christ seems frail and isolated, overborne by a tide of brutal masks and rampant vulgarity. This may, in part, explain Ensor's reaction to his eventual success. He had sought the kind of sensitive acknowledgement that his work commands today, and received in its stead formal honours and unthinking accolades.
Ensor's startling palette and formal invention combine with his irony to remove him from the scope of contemporary stereotypes. No reproduction can do his colours justice, and the reader leafing through this book should bear in mind that Ensor's work needs more than most to be encountered face to face.

The work of Xavier Mellery (1845-1921) divides into two categories: a delicate, domestic world of some charm, and mural art of predictable allegorical content.Fernand Khnopff chose Mellery as his teacher, and The Abandoned Town might be considered a dreamlike transposition of the silent, shadowy scenes that feature in the best of Mellery's work.
The aspirations and imaginative powers of Henry de Groux (1867-1930) were clearly greater than his technical ability. He was a notably difficult character, a fact he despairingly acknowledged in his diary: "It is my destiny to compromise everything." His art nevertheless elicited a favourable reaction from Guillaume Apollinaire and an enthusiastic one from Lйon Bloy.

The latter hailed him as a prophet after seeing the Mocking of Christ (1887), which deGroux had painted at the age of twenty-one. The painting is comparable in its overblown rhetoric to the films of Abel Gance: a convulsive mass of human bodies engulfs the figure of Christ - whose appearance is modelled on that of the artist himself. The prophetic nature of his Great Upheaval has already been discussed; it does indeed convey in naive form, the sense of "world's end" that is more articulately set forth in the work of Friedrich Nietzsche.


Xavier Mellery
The Hours, or ternity and Death
Xavier Mellery
Henry De Groux

(b St-Josse-ten-Noode, nr Brussels, 16 Nov 1866; d Marseille, 12 Jan 1930). 

Painter, pastellist and lithographer, son of Charles De Groux. He studied under Jean-Franзois Portaels from the age of 11 and at the Acadйmie de Bruxelles (1882–3). Until 1890 he participated in exhibitions organized by the avant-garde circles La Chrysalide, L’Essor and Les XX, of which he was a member. He was a close friend of William Degouve de Nuncques, in whose studio he executed the frieze Procession of Archers (pastel, 1886–90; Belgium, priv. col.), first exhibited at Les XX in 1887 and 1889, and the Mocking of Christ(1889; Avignon, Pal. Roure), to which he gave his friend’s features. Masses of tangled bodies with crazed expressions haunt his considerable oeuvre, marked by literary symbolism and by a tendency towards depicting such renowned figures as Christ, Napoleon and Wagner.


Henry de Groux
Great Upheaval

Henry de Groux
The Death of Siegfried
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, hydrocйphalie foreheads and other-worldly eyes, partangel 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
The Gestures
Emile Fabry

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

Belgian painter and designer. He studied at the Acadйmie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels under Jean-Franзois 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 Josйphin Pйladan. 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
The Offering

Emile Fabry

La Gaine

Emile Fabry
The France

Emile Fabry

Emile Fabry
Pour lґArt

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
Satan's Treasures

Jean Delville
Portrait of Madame Stuart Merrill
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
Fountain of the Kneeling Youths
George Minne

(b Ghent, 30 Aug 1866; d Laethem-Saint-Martin, 18 Feb 1941). 

Belgian sculptor, draughtsman and illustrator. He studied at the Acadйmie 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 Grйgoire 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. Grйgoire 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
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 whereEnsor 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.


William Degouve de Nuncques
The Pink House

William Degouve de Nuncques
The Angels of Night

Leon Frederic
The Lake, the Sleeping Water
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.

Leon Spilliaert
Moonlight and Lights

Leon Spilliaert
Vertigo, Magic Staircase

Leon Spilliaert
The Posts
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 Idйaliste, organized by Jean Delville, and exhibited there regularly. In the same year he became professor of decorative art at the Acadйmie 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 

Constant Montald
Jardin sous la neige

Constant Montald
Nymphes dansant

Constant Montald
Femmes a la fontaine

Constant Montald
Like Belgium, the Holland of the last decades of the 1800s was a prosperous country and a point of intersection for both commerce and culture. Unlike Belgium, Holland was and remains a Protestant country. This seems to have been the decisive factor that made Belgium rich in Symbolist art and Holland comparatively poor.
The form of realist art favoured in the Netherlands and exemplified at the turn ofthe century by the School of the Hague was the product of an implicit theology, a philosophy of life and of art which lies outside the present subject. Van Gogh, now probably the most famous painter of this period, was initially a practitioner (albeit a very independent one) of the style then prevailing in Holland; to find a new and different approach, he had to go to France. Should one conclude that thepragmatic outlook of a Protestant society had lost touch with the symbolic register active in Catholic countries - as of course throughout Asia, Africa and South America? A century of anthropological studies has clearly identified the symbolic structure of human societies and of our representations of the world. This structure is far from arbitrary; it obeys a logic similar to the logic of dreams. And scientific positivism, the dominant ideology of the turn of the century, could not perceive the function or logic of this register. This is what incited a "public weary of Positivism" (as Huysmans put it), to turn to "charlatans" and "windbags". It also led certain artists to put their art at the service of the Ideal - a fallacy similar to that of placing one's art at the service of the People.

The two significant Symbolist figures of the Netherlands are Jan Toorop (1858-1928) and Johan Thorn Prikker (1868-1932). Toorop discovered Symbolism while staying in Belgium; Thorn Prikker was in turn influenced by Toorop and by his admiration for Maurice Denis.
Toorop is a painter of striking formal eccentricity. A partial explanation lies in his origin and childhood: he was half-Javanese and spent his childhood in Java. The figures encountered in his paintings are those of the Javanese shadow theater, with their long, thin arms. From our own perspective, the work of bothToorop and Thorn Prikker appears schematic and overliteral. Toorop himself offers a perfectly banal commentary on his painting The Three Fiancees (1893): "The central fiancйe evokes an inward, superior and beautiful desire... an ideal suffering... The fiancйe on the left symbolizes spiritual suffering. She is the mystic fiancйe, her eyes wide with fear...." The bride on the right has "a materialistic and profane expression..." and stands for the sensual world.


Jan Toorop
Turningt in on Oneself

Jan Toorop
The Young Generation

Jan Toorop
The Three Fiancees
Thorn Prikker took Toorop's formalism a step further; the garland worn by The Bride echoes Christ's crown of thorns. The work is of considerable formal interest and suggests that the schematic forms favoured by both artists were stages in the process of abstraction.
It is significant that Toorop transformed his style in painting a testament of love for his infant daughter. The Young Generation shows the child seated in her high chair, turning her back on the past and lifting her arms to the luminous and mysterious world that opens before her.


Johan Thorn Prikker

(b The Hague, 6 June 1868; d Cologne, 5 March 1932). 

Dutch painter, printmaker, mosaicist and stained-glass artist. He attended the Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten in The Hague (1881–8). During this period he painted mainly landscapes in the style of The Hague school. Until c.1896 he produced Symbolist works, in which the emphatic line flow and the subtle colour shading are especially noticeable, for example The Bride (1893; Otterlo, Krцller-Muller). From 1892 until 1897 he corresponded with Henri Borel, partly about his Symbolist work, often drawing in the letters. During this time he came into close contact with Belgian artists, in particular with Henry Van de Velde through whom he was able to exhibit with Les XX in Brussels. In summer he regularly stayed in Visй, where he produced pastel drawings in a rhythmic pointillism, a style with which he could achieve a form of abstraction.


Johan Thorn Prikker
The Bride
Johan Thorn Prikker
Madonna in a Tulip Field


Johan Thorn Prikker
Deposition from the Cross

Johan Thorn Prikker
Revue Bimestrielle
Richard Roland Holst

(b Amsterdam, 4 Dec 1868; d Bloemendaal, 31 Dec 1938). 

Dutch painter, printmaker, illustrator, writer and stained-glass artist. He trained at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam (1886–90), under the directorship of August Allebй. Having initially painted and drawn Impressionistic landscapes, he started working in the ’t Gooi region in 1892, where, influenced by Vincent van Gogh and Jan Toorop, he made a number of Symbolist drawings and lithographs. In 1896 he married the Dutch writer Henriette van der Schalk. They both devoted themselves to the recently founded Sociaal Democratische Arbeiders Partij. In the years up to c. 1900 Holst produced among other things a series of lithographs of political cartoons with socialist content, as well as serene landscapes and paintings of girls from the village of Huizen. His allegorical murals (1902; in situ), on topics such as ‘Industry’ or ‘Commerce’, in the new Koopmansbeurs in Amsterdam by H. P. Berlage (1876–1903), marked an important point in his career as his first opportunity to construct a monumental piece of work. Partly inspired by the murals in the town hall at ’s Hertogenbosch by Antoon Derkinderen, he developed a tight, stylized type of design, which he believed to be ideal for visually representing idealistic and exalted thoughts. In his murals (1903–6) in the headquarters of the Algemeene Nederlandsche Diamantbewerkers Bond (ANDB) he developed these principles into a severe system based on geometricfoundations, which can be found in all his later work. This includes more murals in the ANDB’s headquarters (1912 and 1936–7), a number of stained-glass windows, for example in the Amsterdam Lyceum (1920–27), in the post offices of Haarlem (1923) and Utrecht (1931) and in the cathedral in Utrecht (1926 and 1934–6), and decorated marble panels in the Supreme Court in The Hague (1937–8; destr.). In addition, throughout his career he designed sober, geometric exhibition and theatre posters, book jackets, magazine covers and programmes, mostly as lithographs. He also designed books.


Richard Nicolaus Roland Holst
Anangke (Necessity)

Richard Nicolaus Roland Holst
Two Women at Work

Richard Nicolaus Roland Holst
Helga's Entry