Léon Spilliaert in the Margins

Fig. 1. Léon Spilliaert, The Procession; The Wind, Pour les Amis du Poète (1902–1903). Courtesy Museum Plantin-Moretus, Antwerp.

The Belgian artist Léon Spilliaert (1881–1946) is best known for moody, evocative drawings that extended the introspective concerns of Symbolism into modernism with a fresh economy of form. Working mostly in India ink and pencil, he captured the immensity of the sea, the vast beaches in and around his hometown of Ostend, the dark majesty of trees, and interior states of loneliness, expectation, existential anxiety and spiritual renewal. Though his art often exhibits a literary sensibility, until recently little attention has been paid to the hundreds of drawings he executed on the pages of existing books by the writers Emile Verhaeren and Maurice Maeterlinck.1

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  1. The 2006 retrospective exhibition at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, Brussels, recognized these works, and in 2017 I authored a book on his illustrations in conjunction with a show at the Spilliaert Huis in Ostend. See Anne Adriaens-Pannier, Le rêve des autres: Léon Spilliaert illustrateur de Verhaeren, Maeterlinck, Hellens . . . (Bruges: Van de Wiele/ Het Spilliaert Huis, 2017). []