World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Fernand Khnopff

Fernand Khnopff
Born Fernand Edmond Jean Marie Khnopff
12 September 1858 (1858-09-12)
Grembergen, Belgium
Died 12 November 1921(1921-11-12) (aged 63)
Brussels, Belgium
Nationality Belgian
Education Xavier Mellery
Académie Royal des Beaux-Arts, Brussels
Académie Julian, Paris
Known for Painter, Sculptor, Designer
Notable work Des Caresses
Movement Symbolism
Awards Commander in the Order of Leopold
Officer of the Légion d'Honneur

Fernand Edmond Jean Marie Khnopff (12 September 1858 – 12 November 1921) was a Belgian symbolist painter.


  • Life 1
    • Youth and training 1.1
    • Early career with Les XX 1.2
    • Later years 1.3
  • List of some works in public collections 2
  • References 3
  • Sources 4
  • External links 5


Youth and training

"Portrait of Marguerite Khnopff" (1887), by Fernand Khnopff

Fernand Khnopff was born to a wealthy family that was part of the high bourgeoisie for generations. Khnopff's ancestors had lived in the Vossenhoek area of Grembergen Flanders since the early 17th century but were of Austrian and Portuguese descent. Most male members of his family had been lawyers or judges, and young Fernand was destined for a juridical career. In his early childhood (1859–1864), he lived in Bruges where his father was appointed Substitut Du Procureur Du Roi. His childhood memories of the medieval city of Bruges would play a significant role in his later work. In 1864, the family moved to Brussels. In his childhood Khnopff spent part of his summer holidays in the hamlet of Tillet[1] not so far from Bastogne in the Luxemburg province where his maternal grand parents owned an estate. He painted several views of this village.[2]

To please his parents, he went to law school at the Iwan Gilkin and Emile Verhaeren.

Khnopff left University due to a lack of interest in his law studies and began to frequent the studio of Xavier Mellery, who made him familiar with the art of painting. On 25 October 1876, he enrolled for the Cours De Dessin Après Nature ("course of drawing after nature") at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts. At the Académie, his most famous fellow student was James Ensor, whom he disliked from the start. Between 1877 and 1880, Khnopff made several trips to Paris where he discovered the work of Delacroix, Ingres, Moreau and Stevens. At the Paris World Fair of 1878 he became acquainted with the oeuvre of Millais and Burne-Jones. During his last year at the Académie in 1878–1879 he neglected his classes in Brussels and lived for a while in Passy, where he visited the Cours Libres of Jules Joseph Lefebvre at the Académie Julian.

Early career with Les XX

"The Garden" (1886)
Fernand Khnopff - Incense

In 1881, he presents his works to the public for the first time at the "Salon de l'Essor" in Brussels. The critics' appraisal of his work is very harsh, with the exception of Joséphin Péladan the future grandmaster of the Rosicrucian "Ordre de la Rose + Croix". Péladan asked Khnopff to design the cover for his new book "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 that Khnopff had designed to adorn the cover and in which Caron believed to recognise 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). On several occasions (1892, 1893, 1894 and 1897) Khnopff was invited as guest of honour on the exhibitions of the Parisian "Salon de la Rose + Croix" organised by Péladan.

Later years

In 1889, Khnopff laid his first contacts with England, where he would stay and exhibit regularly in the future. British artists such as Watts, Rossetti, Brown and Burne-Jones would become friends.[3] 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. In March 1898 Khnopff presented a selection of 21 works on the first exhibition of the Vienna Secession. In Vienna his work was received with massive admiration.[4] The works he presented at the Secession would form a major influence on the oeuvre of Gustav Klimt.[4]

The abandoned city, a symbolist drawing by Fernand Khnopff, was inspired by the landscape of Woensdagmarkt square in Bruges.[5]

From 1900 onwards, Khnopff was engaged in the design of his new home and studio in Deutsches Theater Berlin. This production was directed by the famous Max Reinhardt, and the sets evoking the gloomy streets of the mysterious city of Bruges where Khnopff had spent his early childhood, were much appreciated by the Berlin public and critics. After Khnopff had been engaged to design the costumes and the sets for the World premiere of Ernest Chausson's opera Le Roi Arthus at the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels in 1903, he collaborated on more than a dozen opera productions given at "La Monnaie" in the following decade.[7] In 1904 the city council of Saint Gilles commissioned him to decorate the ceilings of the "Salle des Marriages" (=Wedding Room) of the new Town Hall, and in the same year he was approached by the wealthy banker Adolphe Stoclet to design decorative panels for the music room of the Palais Stoclet. Here Khnopff came in touch again with prominent artists from the Vienna Secession; the architect of the Palais Stoclet Josef Hoffmann, and Gustav Klimt who had designed a decorative mosaic for its dining room.

Although not a very open man and a rather secluded personality, he already achieved cult status during his life. Acknowledged and accepted, he received the Order of Leopold. His sister, Marguerite, was one of his favorite subjects. His most famous painting is probably The Caress ("L'Art ou Des Caresses"). His art often portrayed a recurring theme found in symbolist art: the dualistic vision of woman as either 'femme fatale' or angelic woman.

Khnopff is buried in Laeken Cemetery.

List of some works in public collections

Futur or A young English woman (1898)
Silence, 1890
Memories or Lawn Tennis, 1889.
Khnopff: The Caress

The numbers accompanied by the abbreviation: "dCOZ" refer to the catalogue of the works of Khnopff by Catherine de Croës and Gisèle Ollinger-Zinque (1987). See bibliographie. The titles between quotation marks are the original titles given by Khnopff himself.

-Portrait of the violinist Achille Lerminiaux, 1885. (dCOZ 75)

-Portrait of Edmond Khnopff, father of the painter, 1881. (dCOZ 33)

-"Secret-Reflect" (Secret-Reflection), 1902. (dCOZ 378)

-"En écoutant Schumann" (listening to Schumann), 1883. (dCOZ 52)
-Portrait of Marguerite Khnopff, sister of the painter, 1887. (dCOZ 100)
-"Du silence" (Silence), 1890. (dCOZ 151)
-"A Fosset, sous les sapins" (In Fosset, under the firs), 1894. (dCOZ 242)
-"Des Caresses" (The Caresses), 1896. (dCOZ 275) -"Memories" or "Lawn Tennis", 1889. (dCOZ 131)
-Posthumous portrait of Marguerite Landuyt, 1896. (dCOZ 280)
-Portrait of His Royal Highness Prince Leopold of Belgium, 1912. (dCOZ 499)
-Portrait of Miss Van der Hecht, 1883. (dCOZ 57)
-Portrait of Germaine Wiener, 1893. (dCOZ 237)
-"Blanc, noir et or" (White, black and gold), 1901. (dCOZ 365) -"Un masque de jeune femme anglaise" (A mask of a young English woman), 1891. (dCOZ 181) Sculpture (bust) in polychromed plaster.
-"Sous les arbres" (Under the trees), 1894. (dCOZ 253)
-"Une ville abandonnée" (An abandoned city), 1904. (dCOZ 401)

-Portrait of a man, ca. 1885. (dCOZ 89)

-"A Fosset, un ruisseau" (In Fosset, A brook), 1897. (dCOZ 285)

-"Paysage à Fosset", ca. 1894. (dCOZ 254)

-Portrait of Charles Maus (father of Octave Maus, secretary of Les XX), 1885. (dCOZ 84) -"Chimère" (Chimaera), ca. 1910. (dCOZ 470)

-"A Fosset, Le garde qui attend" (In Fosset, The forrester who waits), 1883. (dCOZ 49)

-"L'Encens" (incense), ca. 1898. (dCOZ 325)
-"A Fosset, Un sentier" (In Fosset, a track), ca. 1890-'95. (dCOZ 170)
-"Des yeux bruns et une fleur bleue", 1905. (dCOZ 415)

-"Un Masque" (A mask), 1897. (dCOZ 299) Sculpture in polychromed plaster.

-Portrait of the mother of the artist, 1882. (dCOZ 39)
-"Orphée" (Orpheus), 1913. (dCOZ 519)
-"l'Isolement" (the Isolation, triptych consisting of: "Acrasia", "Solitude" and "Brittomart"), ca. 1890-1894. Part II, "Solitude" is not in Liège but property of the Neumann Foundation in Gingins.
-"Les cheveux" (Hair), 1892. (dCOZ 218bis)

External video
Khnopff's I Lock the Door Upon Myself, 1891, Smarthistory[8]
Khnopff's Jeanne Kéfer, Smarthistory[9]

-Portrait of Jeanne Kéfer,[10] 1885. (dCOZ 82)

-"I lock my door upon myself", 1891. (dCOZ 174)

-"A Bruges, un portail" (In Bruges, a portal), ca. 1904. (dCOZ 405)

-"l'Offrande" (The offering), 1891. (dCOZ 187)

  • Ostend, Museum voor Schone Kunsten:

-View from the bridge at Fosset, ca. 1882-1883. (dCOZ, 41bis)

-Portrait of Marie Monnom (Later wife of Théo van Rysselberghe), 1887. (dCOZ 98)

-"A Bruges, une église" (In Bruges, a church), 1904. (dCOZ 393)

-"l'Eau immobile" (The immobile water), ca. 1894. (dCOZ 247)

-"Tête de jeune femme anglaise" (Head of a young English woman), 1895. (dCOZ 265) Drawing in red chalk.


  1. ^ Since 1977 is Tillet part of the Sainte-Ode commune.
  2. ^ Emile Pirard. Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921) à Fosset, Ménil, Sprimont, Hérompont. Tapuscrit, 105pp A4. Tillet 2012.
  3. ^ Laurent Busine, '"To Sir Edward Burne-Jones from Fernand Khnopff"' in: Fernand Khnopff 1858-1921, Brussels, Salzburg, Boston, 2003-2004: 45-52
  4. ^ a b Fernand Khnopff et ses rapports avec la Secession Viennoise, Brussels, 1987
  5. ^ Draguet, Michel (1995). Khnopff: 1858-1921. Monografieen over Moderne Kunst (in Dutch). Brussels: Snoeck-Dukaju & Zoon. p. 360.  
  6. ^ A description and photographs of the house and its interiors were published in "The Studio" in 1912. see the following link: Villa Khnopff on ArtMagick
  7. ^ Joris Van Grieken, 'Khnopff and the Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie' in:Fernand Khnopff 1858-1921 Brussels, Salzburg, Boston, 2003-2004:65-69.
  8. ^ "Khnopff's I Lock the Door Upon Myself, 1891".  
  9. ^ "Khnopff's Jeanne Kéfer".  
  10. ^


  • P. & V. Berko, "Dictionary of Belgian painters born between 1750 & 1875", Knokke 1981, p. 387-389.
  • P. & V. Berko, "19th Century European Virtuoso Painters", Knokke 2011, p. 506, illustrations p. 138, 140, 142-143.
  • Emile Verhaeren, Quelques notes sur l'oeuvre de Fernand Khnopff, Brussels, Editions Veuve Monnom, 1887.
  • Fernand Khnopff 1858-1921, Exhibition Catalogue: Paris, Musée des Arts décoratifs; Brussels, Royal Museums for Fine Arts of Belgium; Hamburg, Hamburger Kunsthalle, 1979-1980.
  • Robert L. Delevoy, Catherine de Croës, Gisèle Ollinger-Zinque, Fernand Khnopff, (with a catalogue of works by C. de Croës and G. Ollinger-Zinque and essays by R.L.Delevoy), Brussels, Lebeer-Hossmann, 1987. (2nd revised and augmented edition).
  • Fernand Khnopff et ses rapports avec la Secession Viennoise, Exhibition Catalogue: Brussels, Royal Museums for Fine Arts of Belgium, 1987.
  • Jeffery Howe, The Symbolist Art of Fernand Khnopff, Ann Arbor, UMI Research Press, 1982.
  • Michel Draguet, Khnopff, ou l’ambigu poétique, Brussels, Crédit communal ; Paris, Flammarion, 1995.
  • Fernand Khnopff (1858–1921), Exhibition Catalogue: Brussels, Royal Museums for Fine Arts of Belgium; Salzburg, Museum der Moderne; Boston, McMullen Museum of Art, Brussel, 2003-2004. (With essays by: Frederik Leen, Jeffery Howe, Dominique Marechal, Laurent Busine, Michael Sagroske, Joris Van Grieken, Anne Adriaens-Pannier and Sophie Van Vliet.)
  • Emile Pirard. Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921) à Fosset, Ménil, Sprimont, Hérompont. Tapuscrit, 105pp A4. Tillet 2012.

External links

  • Exhibition Review of 'Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921)' (Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide)
  • Obsession: My Lifetime with Fernand Khnopff (Jeffery Howe)
  • Villa Khnopff (ArtMagick)
  • Ten Dreams Galleries
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Hawaii eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.