Archive for the ‘Belgian Art Nouveau’ Category

Belgian posters

Le Sillon Rajah Absinthe Robette L. Eclair Journal des Ventes Bieres de la Meuse



French posters

Encre L. MarquetTheatre de L'Opera La Critique Quinquina Dubonnet Aperitif Theatrophone Eugenie Buffet Tous les Soirs Lecons de ViolonJob La Gomme Casino de Cabourg Compangnie Francaise des Chocolats et des Thes Motocycles Comiot Papier a Cigarettes Job Jane Avril, Jardin de Paris Folies Bergere Emilienne d'Alencon Alcazar D'Ete Lidia













Ernest Blerot, circa 1900, Apartments houses, Rue Saint Boniface



Gustav Strauven, House, rue Souveraine, 52 – 1902



Octave van Rysselberghe, Hotel Otlet, rue de Livourne – 1912



Paul Hankar, Hotel Ciamberlani, rue Defacqz 48 – 1897



Armand van Waesberghe, House, rue Fader 85 – 1900



Albert Roosenboom, Hause, rue Fader 85 – 1900



Victor Horta, Hotel Tassel,rue Paul Emile Janson, 13-15 – 1893-1894



Victor Horta, Hotel Tassel, rue Paul Emile Janson – 1893-1894


Hotel Solvay, 224 Avenue Louise, Brussels, also dates from these years, started in 1895, finished 1900, and it is interesting to note that these houses with all their ornaments were ready on Horta’s drawing board in 1895 even before Sigfried Bing opened his shop in Paris. Horta continued throughout the 1890’s in his dual task, the creation of a new idiom of form and the search for a logical and clearly expressed architectural solution to constructional problems. The first task had been achieved in Tassel’s house, 1892-93, the second found a completely satisfactory solution in the Maison du Peuple, 1896-99, Place Emile van de Velde, Brussels, the first facade in Belgium consisting mainly of iron and glass. It is of importance to the history of architecture owing to its construction, but from the point of view of Art Nouveau it is mainly interesting because of its grilles. – Tchudi Madsen

Architect George Hobé, sgraffitos by Paul Cauchie, House, rue de Chatelain 63 – 1904



Ernest Blerot, House, rue Washington, 50 – 1898



Victor Horta, Hause Vinck, rue Washington 85 – 1903



Adrien Blomme, Hause, rue Americaine 205 – 1905



Adrien Blomme, Hause, rue Americaine 205 – 1905



Octave van Rysselberghe and Henrsy van de Velde, rue Jordaens 34 – 1896



Ernest Blerot, rue de la Valle – 1901-1903



Victor Horta, avenue Louise 224 – 1895-1898



Ernest Blerot, rue Vilain XIIII 7 – 1902



Frans Tilley, rue TVilain XIIII 7 – 1902







Paul Saintenoy







Iron structure with large windows and glass inserts. Perpendicular Art Nouveau style with use of extreme iron techniques.






Bruxelles constitutes a sort of capital city of the new style. The Belgian capital was the city where, at the beginning of the last decade of the XIX Century, the new concept of architecture of the Line, developed by architect such as Victor Horta, Paul Hankar, Gustave Strauven, Armand Van Waesberghe, beyond others; the city where the symbolism in painting began to widespread trough the entire Europe after the works of the artistic society such as Les XX and La Libre Esthetique; the city where the Austrian Workshop Wiener Werkstaette designed and realized maybe the most complete example of Gesamtkunstwerk (Total Work of Art) ever realized.

The central common concept of these realization in Bruxelles has to deal with the concept of Symbol. Compared to other form of meaning, the symbolic is characterized by an inner energy movement and an external complexity. Considering the meaning in literal sense, it stays in a one-to-one relationship with one sign. Even in case of plastic art, dealing with allegoric representations, the relationship between an image and its meaning is based over an accepted iconic vocabulary (as in the baroque glyphs and gryphon style, for example) and thus quite easily recognizable by who share that vocabulary. Allegory is then possible to be translated into other term, into other vocabulary using the meaning’s bridge.

Stoclet Palace nowadays

The case of the symbol is definitively different. The symbolic representation is not based on any vocabulary. The artist’s own creativity and freedom is capable to create relationship between an iconic image and a particular meaning, choosing the iconographic device in a different manner, time by time. The same subject, the same icon could be depicted with different attitude and then charged with different meaning. The meaning – symbolic (iconographic) relationship in Symbolism is not fixed rather than fluid: Symbol is conceived by the artist within a particular moment, within a particular state of the mind, within a special mood.

Stoclet Palace, details

As a consequence, the interpretation of symbolic art is as complex as its creativity act. More, the interpretation of the symbol is a creative moment per se, when the spectator exploiting his own symbolic heritage he achieved during the time, with previous sensitive experiences, with previous artistic experiences, within his cultural, philosophical, religious, social milieu.  The hermeneutic of the symbolist art spectator should be as complex and rich as the creativity engine of the artist himself, as the act to approach and interpret the symbolic work of art follows the proceed of the artistic production, overcharging the work itself by a plethora of other complimentary meaning. The power of symbol is then complete: it continues to suggest new reading, new interpretation, revitalizing the work of art, providing a beyond-the-time living and inspiring concept of art.

Stoclet Palace, façade details

The key work is complexity. From Latin complicatio, ethimologically the word means “put together several different things”. The movement of complexity happens either when composing a specific work of art, as well as when interpreting symbolically that work. And a further level of realization of a complex art is the so called Gesamkunstwerk, the Total Work of Art. There the complexity is not just realized with the combination (again Latin, combinatio) of meanings rather than with the widespread adoption of a particular style trough the entire composite elements of the work. The stimuli of such a pervasive artistic production achieves the goal of unity in complexity, in which the application of the same style is bound with different declinations of it by the symbolic development of its application. In other terms, this sort of Heraclitean approach provides within the style the eon, the Unity and within the symbolic artistic freedom of its application the multiply meanings.

In Stoclet palace, the expressive power of the Line pervade every single element, from the architecture of Josef Hoffmann, the decoration of the façade with its geometric and clean lines, the inner decoration and furniture design due to the works of Hfmann but also Gustav Klimt, Bertold Loeffler, Carl Otto Czecha, Leopold Forstner, Michael Powolny, Franz Metzner, Koloman Moser.


Stoclet Palace, the roof under restoration

Every single detail, from the decorations to the furniture, from the garden to the kitchen tools, were conceived with a unity of style; every single detail represents a stylistic declination of the line, providing an overall synesthetic for the inhabitants of the villa. Everything in the palace is charged with aesthetic value, every single object represents a key to the Garden of Meanings, the structure, its interiors, its decoration constitute a Symbolic and Aesthetic Forest detached from the everyday, human, villain life.

One should be an aesthete to walk through this Forest and being excited by this trip rather than  scared by it; one should have the same cult of Beauty and of Art as a Des Essaintes or a Gabriele D’Annunzio to fully enjoy the unique experience of an aesthetic life within a Total Work of Art; one should have such a feminine attitude towards the Mysteries to use these tools, to look at these decorations as what they are, single small piece of art. Living surrounded by art without such an aesthetic passion could become a nightmare or an annoying task, such as taking care of old fragile objects.

Considering the actual status of the exterior of the Stoclet Palace, such an annoyed attitude could probably suitably describe what the actual property is feeling towards this Masterpiece. Accepting to live there is accepting to live surrounded by living Suggestions. Entering or, worst, living there is not a task for everyone: paraphrasing Plato, shouldn’t dare to enter there who is not an aesthete …



Emile Fabry was Belgian symbolist painter and designer. He studied at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels under Jean-François Portaels, and worked with the designer Cir Jacques.

He had a special symbolist attitude towards the mysteries of the unconscious and of the obscure Nature forces. As many artists who worked within the milieu of Belgian Symbolism work, even Fabry was heavily influenced by Maurice Maeterlinck (1862-1949),  depicting characters who expresses anguish through its depiction of wild-eyed and deformed figures.

The still and silence pervade the composition, as in case of “le fil de la vie”, weather the eyes of the central figure seems to be able to investigate in-depth the unconscious of the spectator. Marbled and crystallized colors provide the impression of a world where inquietude and mystery are ruling …

In 1892 Fabry took part in the first exhibition of the group ‘Pour l’Art’, which he founded with Jean Delville and of which he depicted the poster, and in 1893 and 1895 exhibited at the Salons de la Rose+Croix, established by the Sar Joséphin Pèladan.

In this period he experimented an aesthetic in which the characters are disposed in front of the spectator, developing over vertical lines, somewhat with an architectural approach, recalling some conposition of pre-raphaelitism:

The palette is also darkening, soft pointillism suggest an intimae light experience, just like the light itself was produced by the character rather than coming from some natural source. Again, the supernatural and intimate unconscious take over the usual expectation about the external natural phenomenon. No forecast is possible in either the intimate world nor in the work of Fabry. In “Vers l’Ideal” there are also present influences from the Austrian Secession (Klimt):

Emile Verhaeren in 1896 wrote about him:

A special artists with a strong willing. He is able to clearly express sadness, force and ingenuous sweet attitude. His characters has large front, large eyes, compact long hairs, placed in a metallic, marbled and silent world: they are like suspended upwards as huge melancholic flowers. He is one of the rare artist who as a special attitude towards life, and who is living in a splendid world apart. A world which sometimes looks as the only who is actually real. And this is his powerful art. We are brought into this individual vision which completely fascinates the spectator.

And eventually these word were inspired by one of the masterpiece of Fabry, “Les gestes”, 1895:

In this painting the curve lines are ruling the development of the shapes. The large eyes and the lounged faces are incredibly expressive, providing a melting pot of different feelings such as sadness (the woman on the very left), melancholy (far right) and a perverted beauty, which is able to dig in-depth the spectator unconscious and inner world (central figures). One can feel these eyes right in his blood without being scared rather being fascinated. These long faces, with an hermetic expressions constitute a incitation to the spectator to know the inner part of himself. Just like a painted symbolic version of the Delphic and Heraclitean motto, a sort of parallel with the Klimtian Nuda Veritas: These eyes in Fabry’s painting are the counterpart of the Nuda Veritas’ glass, both directed toward the spectator own sight (either external and internal) …

Death at 101, the author during his long life continuously remain on his ideal, researching new expressive way to depict the inexpressible trough symbolic form and lines, with metallic colors, with an attitude towards the mystery, trough his love for veiled Isis. He still maintains his role of prophet of symbolism just at the time of non-figurative and too often rizomatic and casual art. Our flag versos any action (aka non-symbolic) art.


According to Wikipedia:

Sgraffito ("scratched", plural Scraffiti and often also written Scraffito) is a technique either of wall decor, produced by applying layers of plaster tinted in contrasting colors to a moistened surface, or in ceramics, by applying to an unfired ceramic body two successive layers of contrasting slip, and then in either case scratching so as to produce an outline drawing. A combed wall surface is produced by dragging a comblike tool over a prepared surface, producing stripes or waves.

This particular decorative technique applied to the wall buildings, was widespread trough Italy (specially in central regions) during the Renaissance. However this particular technique flourished during the last decade of the XIX Century in France and in Belgium. In this latter Country, several sgraffites were used to decorate several Art Nouveau building, till they could be considered one of the specific characteristic of Belgian Art Nouveau.

Probably, the most famous example of sgraffito in Bruxelles is the famous Maison Cauchie. Build in 1905, the building was the residence house of the architect Paul Cauchie and of her wife, the painter and illustrator Catherine Voet, known as Lina. The house is fully decorated with the sgraffito technique and the overall impression is eye-capturer. The fact is that the house itself, and mainly the decorations, are used as a sort of advertising for the work of the two artists. So combining an outstanding and fascinating catching female decoration:


With a sort of visit card in pure sgraffito style:


Apart the famous Cauchie house the technique of sgraffito is really omnipresent in the production of the Belgian Art Nouveau architecture and façade design.

Sinuous female figures:



Scenes, mostly with gold colored shapes, which gives a very special effect, when illuminated by the sun:


Some of them, are realized using few colors, mainly reds, providing a warm and intimate vintage effect, resembling really the Renaissance’s houses style:


and, finally, the pure geometrical abstract designs, which translate into the technique of the sgraffito, the aesthetic researches performed during the same years by Henry van de Velde and, moreover, by the most representative architect of the Belgian Art Nouveau, Victor Horta: