From 21 December onwards, you will have the opportunity to admire the three volumes of Maurice Maeterlinck's 'Théâtre' (1902-1903), illustrated by Léon Spilliaert, at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. This masterpiece of the Flemish Community was recently purchased by the Eliane Vercaempt Fund, managed by the King Baudouin Foundation, and given on loan to the RMFAB to enrich its collections. Thanks to this action, an important work of Belgian heritage will be preserved forever and made accessible to the public.
In 1901 and 1902 publisher Edmond Deman in Brussels produced an edition of all the plays of Maurice Maeterlinck that had appeared up to that time. Between September 1902 and July 1903 he instructed Léon Spilliaert to produce drawings in his own copy. The result consists of more than three hundred and forty title page illustrations, text vignettes and marginal illustrations, produced using a mixed technique including Indian ink, gouache and pastels. The work is internationally recognised as a masterpiece by Spilliaert.
A unique collaboration
The acquisition and loan of the three illustrated volumes was made possible by a unique collaboration between the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, the Flemish Community and the King Baudouin Foundation. In line with the objectives of the Eliane Vercaempt Fund, the RMFAB asked the KBF for a long-term loan. The KBF thus played its role of facilitator to safeguard the work - which is protected by the Flemish Community as a masterpiece - on the one hand, and to organise cooperation so that the 'Théâtre' could be preserved and made accessible to the public in Belgium on the other.
The three parts have since been transferred to the RMFAB, more specifically to the Fin-de-siècle Museum, in the room dedicated to Léon Spilliaert, where they will be accessible to the general public from now on. Another page will be displayed every three months.
For Léon Spilliaert, Maurice Maeterlinck was the best interpreter of the inchoate feelings of anxiety and uncertainty to which he himself was particularly receptive. As a result, he illustrated the three volumes of plays with great dedication. The drawings are not literal illustrations of the text, but evocations of his personal experience. This is a testimony to the author’s influence on Spilliaert’s visual language, which is translated into ‘limited action, insignificant fact, dematerialisation of the body, temporal unclarity, dreamlike metamorphosis of the surroundings and dissolution into silence’.
About the Eliane Vercaempt Fund
The Eliane Vercaempt Fund, which is managed by the King Baudouin Foundation, aims to contribute towards purchases of works of art from the 19th and 20th centuries. These works will be given on loan to the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, which will exhibit them to the public.