The Royal Academy of Arts is set to present the first major exhibition of Belgian artist Léon Spilliaert (1881–1946) to be held in the UK.


Léon Spilliaert, Woman at the Shoreline, 1910. Indian ink, coloured pencil and pastel on paper, 49 x 60 cm. Private collection. Photo: © Cedric Verhelst.

On display from the 23rd February, the Royal Academy of Arts brings together around 80 works drawn from public and private collections across Belgium, France, Great Britain and the USA to examine the career of Léon Spilliaert.

Organised into four thematic sections, the exhibition will present a journey through the lifetime of this remarkably insightful and unusual artist. The first section titled Illumination will concentrate on Spilliaert’s engagement with literature, theatre and book illustration and introduce his poetic visions of nature, including Beech Trunks, 1945 (Private Collection). 

Meanwhile, the second section Crepuscule will concentrate on the artist’s expressions of emptiness and loneliness in the twilit world he inhabited. This section will include examples of a commission to illustrate Belgique II, one of the first airships in Belgium. 

Littoral is the third section of the exhibition explores Spilliaert’s fascination with the liminal areas between land and sea, as seen in A Gust of Wind, 1904 (Mu.ZEE) and Dike at night. Reflected lights, 1908 (Musée d‘Orsay), his depictions of the streets, beach and promenade of Ostend. The final section, Reflections, brings together an important group of self-portraits.

The display is curated by Dr Anne Adriaens-Pannier (Honorary Curator, Musées royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels and Artistic Director of Het Spilliaert Hus, Ostend) and Dr Adrian Locke (Senior Curator, Royal Academy of Arts, London).

Léon Spilliaert will be on display at the Royal Academy of Arts from the 23rd February until the 25th May.

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