Contemporary, Modern Art and Old Masters

Auction 174 - 19 October 2019

Contemporary, Modern Art and Old Masters Lot 103

Léon Spilliaert (Belgium / 1881 - 1946)
Flacon rouge (1909)


€ 80 000 - 100 000

"Léon Spilliaert - Onbekende werken" Casino, Knokke 2000, cat. nr. 27, p. 47 reprod.
"Léon Spilliaert" Musée des Beaux-Arts, Mons 2001, cat. nr. 7
"Apollo" London, April 2013, p. 24 reprod.
To be included in the catalogue raisonné in preparation by Mrs. Anne Adriaens-Pannier

Flacon rouge (1909): ceci n'est pas un flacon

Between 1904 and 1909, Léon Spilliaert creates a series of interiors and still lifes bathing in an isolated, mysterious setting. His attention goes to his immediate environment, which he subjects to a psychological examination. Perfume items of all kinds are piled up in the Ostend house and his father's workspace. Spillaert's pencil elevates these bottles, flasks, bowls to another level similar to the curious portraits of this period, such as the portrait of his brother "Ferdinand" (1906, lot 102 in this auction).
Bigger than life, the red bottle occupies the foreground in an otherwise abstract space. Idealized and magnified, it becomes a surreal presence, ghostly bathing in an undefined light. A minimum of diagonals determines the perspective. The refined, undefined decor increases the contrast with the portrayed bottle, facilitating an introspective look into the object. The only sign indicating a real interaction with the environment is the ghostly light beam on the glass, which hardly reflects a window. The velvety color modulations in subdued shades of deep red, green and gray nevertheless create a certain homeliness.

The ordinary object creates confusion. It forces an uncomfortable and alerting feeling upon the spectator. The abstracted formal language disconnects the bottle from its properties as a utensil and elevates it to the role of animated protagonist in a timeless evocation of beauty. The bottle loses its materiality and no longer belongs to the reality of the everyday world. Spilliaert investigates l'âme des choses. His animism is hermetic and isolated. Every bond with the environment, every function, every reference is removed and the performance is reduced to an upsetting close-up in which only the essence of the object is preserved: flacon.

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