Léon Spilliaert, Royal Academy of Arts - ★★★★ - Until May 25, 2020

Woman at the Shoreline by Léon Spilliaert, 1910.

If you don't know the name Léon Spilliaert, you are probably not alone.This is the first exhibition of his work in the UK, and it provides a beautiful introduction to the artist. Born in 1881, in Ostend, Belgium, Spilliaert was not healthy for most of his life and his bleak, brooding vision seems to have found its source both in that illness as well as in his haunting native landscape. His rendering of the seashore and the dark nights in Ostend are particularly evocative. His fascination with liminal realties is made evident in his intriguing studies of sea/shore and light/dark whilst the limited palate in many of his works heightens the drama. In his landscapes, people, often alone, stand out against their background. The fisher women in his pictures and the girl in A Gust of Wind (1904) are in their environments but not part of them. There is a profound sense of solitude and separateness in Spilliaert's work but it does not express itself in the desperation of an Edvard Munch with whom it is easy to compare him. Here there is a quiet acceptance of detachment. The artist, who suffered from insomnia, is like the invalid who is in the world but not always of it. Spilliaert's work seems to accept his lack of engagement finding comfort in the world of bed and bed chamber, familiar objects, books and ideas. For us, Spilliaert's haunting self portraits were a fitting and captivating conclusion to the exhibition. Here we saw the artist as he saw himself and looked into the eyes that had seen the unique world to which we had been introduced. Take this opportunity to see Léon Spilliaert!

Reviewed by J.C.

 Our Score:  ☆☆☆☆ 

WHEN, WHERE, GETTING THERE:
Until May 25, 2020
Daily: 10 am - 6 pm (Fri until 10 pm)
Royal Academy of Arts
Nearest tube: Piccadilly Circus
https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/exhibition/leon-spilliaert

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