The Fondation de l’Hermitage hosta a major retrospective of Léon Spilliaert (1881- 946), one of the most important representatives of Belgian art in the early 20th century.
He created his profoundly original work almost entirely on paper, combining different graphic techniques in images imbued with metaphysical questioning and Flemish culture.
His art can be linked to the Symbolism and Expressionism of his time, while the extreme simplification of his most radical landscapes seems to herald geometrical abstraction and minimalism.
Before the First World War (1914-1918) Spilliaert primarily used Indian ink wash, watercolour, pastel and coloured crayons to create pared down landscapes bordering on abstraction – sky, sea and the line of the seawall vibrating in dull light. The few figures who appear on these melancholic shores are usually women.
Spilliaert’s depiction of human beings culminated in striking self-portraits. After 1920 Spilliaert made great use of watercolour and gouache, creating flamboyant, highly lyrical seascapes sometimes verging on the abstract. In the 1930s and 40s he returned to nature trees. His fascinating and timeless images radiate a sense of peace combined with a sense of the uncanny.