CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Théo van Rysselberghe

Théo van Rysselberghe Exhibition: 11 June - 24 September 2006

 	Théo Rysselberghe, Young ladies on the beach, 1901, coll. Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium.

Théo Rysselberghe, Young ladies on the beach, 1901
oll. Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium.

Flemish artist Théo van Rysselberghe (1862-1926) is one of the
most important figures in the field of Neo-impressionism. He introduced the
Pointillist technique of Seurat and Signac in Belgium and played a major role
in the group of avant-garde Brussels artists known as “Les XX” (Les Vingt).
This exhibition at the Gemeentemuseum will include not only a large number of
well-known masterpieces, but also works from private collections which have
never previously been seen by the public. It will be the first ever major
retrospective of this influential painter to be held in the Netherlands.

Exotic scenes

Théo was born in Ghent and trained at the town’s academy, first exhibiting his
work (two portraits) at the age of eighteen. He then went on to study at the
academy in Brussels. In the early years of his career, his palette was influenced
by a close study of the work of Frans Hals in Haarlem and by his first visit to
Morocco: his work began to feature loose brushstrokes, warm colours and exotic
scenes bathed in brilliant sunlight. Rysselberghe was a born traveller: all his
life he would continue to feel the pull of distant lands. He spent a year in
Morocco, visited Constantinople (Istanbul), roamed Europe and made repeated
trips to the Netherlands. Like his future colleagues in Les Vingt, however, he
was also particularly attached to the Belgian coastal resort of Knokke. During
this early period he came into contact with the American painter Whistler. Les
Vingt was established in 1883 and in 1887 the members organised a major exhibition
of Neo-Impressionists. That was where Rysselberghe met Signac and the two became
friends. Rysselberghe had already discovered Seurat’s work the previous year in
Paris and at the time of the exhibition he himself was beginning to experiment
with Impressionist technique and the decomposition of light and colour, adopting
a bright and luminous palette as a result. He exhibited in Paris at the Salon
des Indépendants, launched by Seurat, Signac and Cross. He had close ties with
the Pointillists: he travelled with Signac by boat to the South of France,
visited Pissarro in Paris, worked in Sigac’s studio in the city and was later
to join Signac for a time in St. Tropez. After 1898, however, he distanced
himself from Signac, wanting to concentrate more on nature and move away from
Neo-Impressionism. He sought his subjects in Brittany and on the coast of
England and his brushwork and compositions became freer. Rysselberghe was in
close contact with many contemporary Belgian and French artists and writers,
as witness his portraits of André Gide, Paul Signac and Octave Maus, the secretary of Les Vingt.


He himself was an influential figure in the cultural life of Belgium and Europe
on the eve of the 20th century. Toulouse-Lautrec and Seurat bought work by him
and he introduced the new styles of Divisionism and Pointillism in Belgium and
the Netherlands. By doing so, he had an especially important impact on the
development of Jan Toorop, who was also a member of Les Vingt, and also on that
of Piet Mondrian. This exhibition uses oil paintings, works on paper, letters
and photographs to provide not only an overview of Rysselberghe’s oeuvre, but
also an impression of the work of contemporaries such as Seurat, Signac, Finch,
Khnopff, Cross and Morren. It also offers an opportunity to consider his oeuvre
in relation to works by Piet Mondrian, Jan Toorop and Leo Gestel in the collection
of the museum.