Thanks to the Eliane Vercaempt Fund, managed by the King Baudouin Foundation, a masterpiece from the Flemish Community is purchased, namely the three-volume work ‘Théâtre’ by Maurice Maeterlinck (1902-1903) with illustrations by Léon Spilliaert. This superb 20th century work will enrich the collections of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. On the initiative of the museum, this masterpiece of the Flemish Community will be preserved and made accessible in our public collections for ever. This has been possible thanks to a unique collaboration between the Royal Museums of Fine Arts, the Flemish Community and the King Baudouin Foundation.
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.
Anne Adriaens-Panier, honorary curator at the RMFAB and a Spilliaert specialist writes: “In addition to the smaller series of illustrations in two collections belonging to Emile Verhaeren, (preserved in public institutions such as the Plantin-Moretus Museum, Antwerp, and the Rare Books Department of the Royal Library in Brussels, the three volumes of Maurice Maeterlinck’s Théâtre contains Léon Spilliaert’s completely original vision, set out in a well thought-out, consistent way. His minimalistic illustrations can be seen as a forerunner of the innovative pure line drawings that are so typical of the extraordinary works produced by Belgium’s comic book artists. Spilliaert felt, more than any other illustrator of his time, the intuitive bond between the poetic idea, the word and the image. He took pure ideas and gave them a form. From a modern perspective, these three volumes are uniquely valuable, and they will no doubt provide the impetus for new perspectives on composition and layout, as well as providing a reference framework for the later history of illustration.”
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’.
On display at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Belgium
The work is a masterpiece of the Flemish Community. In line with the objectives of the Eliane Vercaempt Fund, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium asked the KBF to lend it to them. The RMFAB wishes to include it in a room in the Fin-de-siècle museum where there are already numerous works by the artist. Given the importance of the work, cooperation between the various entities is paramount and the KBF will play its role of facilitator, on the one hand, to safeguard the work and, on the other, to organise the cooperation.
A press visit to see this masterpiece will be organised when it arrives at the museum.
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.
High-resolution pictures of Spilliaert’s works are available on request from Thierry Van Noppen: firstname.lastname@example.org - +32 549 02 56 - +32 479 31 85 56
Specific questions: Anne De Breuck - email@example.com - + 32 549 61 54