• Léon Frédéric, Fragrance, 1894 © VBK Wien, 2007/08
  • Fernand Khnopff, Eine Hortensie, 1884 © Private Collection
  • Willy Schlobach, Die Elemente in Bewegung, 1900 © Privatbesitz
  • Fernand Khnopff, Mit Verhaeren. Ein Engel, 1889 © Privatbesitz
  • Constant Montald, Das Nest, 1893 © Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique
  • Jean Delville, Mysteriosa. Bildnis Madame Stuart-Merrill, 1892 © VBK Wien, 2007/08
  • Philippe Wolfers, Zivilisation und Barberei, 1897 © Fondation Roi Baudoin, Depositum in den Musées royaux d'art et d'histoire
  • Léon Frédéric, Fragrance, 1894 © VBK Wien, 2007/08
  • Fernand Khnopff, Eine Hortensie, 1884 © Private Collection
  • Willy Schlobach, Die Elemente in Bewegung, 1900 © Privatbesitz
  • Fernand Khnopff, Mit Verhaeren. Ein Engel, 1889 © Privatbesitz
  • Constant Montald, Das Nest, 1893 © Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique
  • Jean Delville, Mysteriosa. Bildnis Madame Stuart-Merrill, 1892 © VBK Wien, 2007/08
  • Philippe Wolfers, Zivilisation und Barberei, 1897 © Fondation Roi Baudoin, Depositum in den Musées royaux d'art et d'histoire

The Kiss of the Sphinx Symbolism in Belgium

An exhibition in cooperation with the Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels

16.10.2007 - 02.02.2008

“The essential attribute of symbolist art consists in never fixing or directly uttering an idea as a concept”, wrote the poet Jean Moréas in 1886 in his Manifeste du Symbolisme. The cradle of literary symbolism was in France and Belgium, and it was here, too, that symbolist painting was born. Its exponents were linked not only by the artistic manner of expression, but first and foremost by an intellectual attitude, in which the power of the imagination plays a key role. Symbolism is informed by the constant confrontation with the boundaries between reality, dream and doubt; with endurance and decay, with redemption and downfall. A close interconnection of poetry and the visual arts, the tendency towards the Gesamtkunstwerk – the total work of art – also characterise symbolism, which embraces painting, jewellery, works on paper, the decorative arts and furniture. Costly materials in the most consummate and elaborate workmanship, an elegant, linear language of forms and a melancholy and dreamy overall mood mark this art trend, which has such a close affinity to art nouveau.

The exhibition will include more than 100 works gathered together for Vienna for the first time in cooperation with Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique. The show centres around the works of the most famous exponent of Belgian Symbolism: Fernand Khnopff. Works by Odilon Redon, Felicién Rops, Constantin Meunier, William Degouve de Nuncques and Jean Delville supplement the selection to make up a comprehensive presentation of this hitherto underestimated and insufficiently appraised art movement – the exhibition is an act of (re-)discovery on the part of the BA-CA Kunstforum. Symbolism is in its concepts and statements essential for our understanding of modern art. The response to Belgian Symbolism was immediate throughout the whole western art scene: we only have to think of Odilon Redon, Paul Gauguin, Gustave Moreau, Koloman Moser, Gustav Klimt, Leon Bakst, William Blake and Franz von Stuck. In its interweaving of dream and reality it became the source of inspiration for a great number of groundbreaking innovations in early twentieth century art.

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