Exceptional exhibition by Léon Spilliaert at Galerie Patrick Derom in Brussels

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Exceptional exhibition by Léon Spilliaert at Galerie Patrick Derom in Brussels
Léon Spilliaert, Blue and Yellow Seascape, c. 1934. Photo Vicent Everarts.

BRUSSELS.- Galerie Patrick Derom in Brussels is presenting an exceptional exhibition by Léon Spilliaert (Ostend 1881-Brussels 1946). The exhibition brings together twenty-one works on paper, some of which have never before been shown to the public. The exhibition covers Spilliaert's entire career, with early works such as the sombre Landscape with Sign (1904), mature works such as the luminous Blue and Yellow Seascape (c. 1934), and late works such as the enigmatic The Open Door, Waiting (c. 1945).

The exhibition is divided into five sections, each focusing on a different aspect of Spilliaert's work, allowing visitors to familiarise themselves with lesser-known elements of his art. The accompanying catalogue, published by Snoeck, offers a unique testimony by the grandson and describes in short chapters the artistic contribution of the works on display.

The mysterious imagery of Léon Spilliaert (Ostend 1881–Brussels 1946) exerts a particular fascination. His works on paper evoke the solitude of human beings and the immensity of the sea, the life of places familiar to the artist in and around his home town of Ostend, together with domestic interiors and objects. His striking self-portraits convey the anguish of sounding the very depths of his being. His creations reflect a highly individual and spiritual meditation, through close observation of scenes that symbolize eternal Nature, out of time.

The twenty-one works in this exhibition all stem from the artist’s family – an intimate chronicle of his artistic quest and explorations. The accompanying catalog situates Spilliaert's oeuvre within the wider context of the art of his day. It includes a unique, first-hand account of the artist’s family life, together with succinct chapters outlining the exceptional artistic contribution of the featured works. It includes texts written by leading Spilliaert expert Anne Adriaens-Pannier, art historian Édouard Derom and Professor Jeffery Howe, and an interview with Spilliaert’s grandson, Johan van Rossum.

For a private gallery to have the opportunity to present a large selection of works by an artist as prestigious as Spilliaert is, these days, a rare privilege. So it's hardly surprising that the gallery enthusiastically accepted the invitation from Johan van Rossum, the artist's grandson, to exhibit an exceptional group of works that have always remained in the family.

This initiative, however, did not come out of the blue. Since its creation some forty years ago, Patrick Derom Gallery has made the representation and promotion of Spilliaert one of its pillars. In the 1980s and 1990s, the gallery worked closely with Francine-Claire Legrand, former curator of modern art at Belgium's Royal Museums of Fine Arts and an undisputed specialist in the artist's work. Over the years, the gallery has offered the market some remarkable seascapes and self-portraits. And it has always been delighted to find first-rate private and public collections to house these significant works. In 2005, for example, the gallery sold the artist's -Self-portrait "with masks" (1903) to the Musée d'Orsay.

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