Saturday, October 11, 2014

Khnopff, Fernand

I Lock my Door upon Myself
oil on canvas
72 x 140 cm
Neue Pinakothek, Bayerische Staatsgemaldesammlungen, Munich, Germany

Fernand Edmond Jean Marie Khnopff (1858-1921) was a Belgian symbolist painter, sculptor, photographer and writer. He was one of the foremost Symbolist artists and active supporters of avant-garde art in late 19th-century Belgium. Already during his lifetime he was almost a cult figure, creating a personality for himself as a dandy much sought after in Society circles.

He was born to a wealthy family that was part of the high bourgeoisie for generations. Most male members of his family had been lawyers or judges, and he was destined for a juridical career. To please his parents, he went to law school at the Free University of Brussels when he was 18 years old. During this period, he developed a passion for literature, discovering the works of Baudelaire, Flaubert, etc.... He left University due to a lack of interest in his law studies, turning to literature and art. In 1876, he enrolled at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts. At the Academie, his most famous fellow student was James Ensor, whom he disliked from the start.

He began his career when Realism was the most advanced style in Belgium, and he always maintained a commitment to verisimilitude in the details of his works. However, Realism was not enough for him: he insisted that art must suggest the essential mystery behind the visible facts and facades. He took certain themes from a friend of Symbolist poetry: silence, solitude, secretiveness and deserted towns. His sister Marguerite, born in 1864, became his adulated oracle and favourite model. He was given the Order of Leopold in recognition of his services to painting but despite this he was an exceptionally private artist.