Léon Spilliaert (1881-1946) Light and solitude, Musée d'Orsay, Paris: 13 October 2020-10 January 2021

Léon Spilliaert, a Flemish artist who remains surprisingly unknown outside his native Belgium, is the focus of this exhibition at the Orsay Museum, Paris.

Featuring some 90 works, the exhibition will provide a rare opportunity to view his intriguing and often mysterious work. As a young man, Spilliaert was fuelled by existential angst, captured in a sequence of visionary self-portraits and atmospheric night-time scenes of his hometown, the North Sea resort Ostend.

He moved to Brussels in 1920 and lived between the two cities for the rest of his life. In Brussels he created a series of tranquil views of the surrounding beech woods. His visual explorations of the self and potent images of solitude and melancholy align Spilliaert with Nordic artists such as Edvard Munch, Vilhelm Hammershøi and Helene Schjerfbeck, among others. Throughout his career Spilliaert surprised, disconcerted, rethought and reinvented, leaving an indelible mark on Belgian art of the first half of the 20th century.

The works on display focus on the artist's career from 1900 to 1919 and show how Spilliaert style was shaped by the affinity he felt with writers and thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Emile Verhaeren and Edgar Allan Poe, and how his career developed apart from the movements of Symbolism, Expressionism and Surrealism.

The exhibition is organised by the Royal Academy of Arts, London in collaboration with the Musée d'Orsay, Paris.

Léon Spilliaert, Woman at the Shoreline, 1910. Indian ink, coloured pencil and pastel on paper, 49 x 60 cm. Private collection. Photo: © Cedric Verhelst
Léon Spilliaert, Woman at the Shoreline, 1910. Indian ink, coloured pencil and pastel on paper, 49 x 60 cm. Private collection. Photo: © Cedric Verhelst
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