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Closeout Price! Recommended. By Michel Draguet. In this beautifully illustrated book, Michel Draguet, an internationally recognized authority on fin-de-siècle art, offers an enlightening examination of the life and art of Belgian Symbolist painter Fernand Khnopff (1858–1921). Khnopff achieved widespread acclaim during his lifetime for his moody, dreamlike paintings, as well as his numerous commissioned portraits, designs for costumes and sets for the theater and opera, photography, sculpture, book illustrations, and writings. Nudity. Mercatorfonds, 2020.

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In this beautifully illustrated book, Michel Draguet, an internationally recognized authority on fin-de-siècle art, offers an enlightening examination of the life and art of Belgian Symbolist painter Fernand Khnopff (1858–1921). Khnopff achieved widespread acclaim during his lifetime for his moody, dreamlike paintings, as well as his numerous commissioned portraits, designs for costumes and sets for the theater and opera, photography, sculpture, book illustrations, and writings. Nudity.

In 1885, he met the French writer Joséphin Péladan, the future grandmaster of the Rosicrucian “Ordre de la Rose + Croix”. Péladan asked Khnopff to design the cover for his new novel Le Vice suprême. Khnopff accepted this commission but destroyed the work later because the famous soprano Rose Caron was offended by the imaginary portrait of Leonora d’Este (a character in Péladan’s Le Vice suprême) that Khnopff had designed to adorn the cover and in which Caron thought to recognize her own face.

The vehement reaction of “La Caron” on this occasion made a scandal in the Belgian and Parisian press and would help to establish Khnopff’s name as an artist. Khnopff continued to design illustrations for the works of Péladan, most notably for Femmes honnêtes (1888) and Le Panthée (1892).

In 1889, Khnopff made his first contacts with England, where he would stay and exhibit regularly in the future. British artists such as Hunt, Watts, Rossetti, Brown and Burne-Jones would become friends, and his work contains Pre-Raphaelite style and themes at times. From 1895 Khnopff worked as a correspondent for the British art journal The Studio. Until the outbreak of World War I in 1914 Khnopff would be responsible for the rubric “Studio-Talks-Brussels” in which he reported about the artistic evolutions in Belgium and continental Europe.

Khnopff was a reclusive personality, and in 1900 he focused his attention on the design and construction of a lavish, secluded home and studio in Brussels, a structure that became deeply entwined with the artist’s work and sense of self. Although the house was demolished in 1936, Draguet uses new archival research to reconstruct its spaces and explore the home as emblematic of the artist, guiding the reader through Khnopff’s very personal world and analyzing his art in the context of its generative surroundings.

Michel Draguet is professor of art history at the Université libre de Bruxelles and director general of the Musées royeaux des Beaux-Arts in Belgium.

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