Leon Spilliaert

MARINE, 1900

  • Leon Spilliaert (°1881, België )
  • pastel on paper
  • 27 x 18.3cm

‘Spilliaert stands alone as an artist, and solitude is his special expertise … An artist for our time, trapped in the Belgian past.’ (Laura Cumming, ‘Discovering the art of Léon Spilliaert, Belgium's unsung genius’, The Guardian, 9 February 2020, online)

Born in Ostend in 1881, Léon Spilliaert lived and worked in Belgium until his death aged 65. Spilliaert was a solitary, sensitive and largely self-taught painter who – habitually prone to ill health and insomnia – evocatively captures the East Flanders’ coastline, often deserted or nocturnal scenes that serve as a visual memoir to his provincial hometown, seem from his unique, reclusive perspective. This lends his compositions an inherent otherworldliness, tending towards abstraction, his landscapes evoke an unnerving feeling of estrangement or detachment from reality, persistently related to the vast, expansive ocean skyline. Executed in 1900, Marine with sunset is a sublime example of such a scene, with its muted pastel tones alluding to a distinct atmosphere of contemplative, murky stillness in the liminal dusk.

In 2020, Spilliaert’s work was the subject of a major retrospective at the Royal Academy of Arts in London in collaboration with the Musée d'Orsay, Paris.