Contemporary, Modern Art and Old Masters

Auction 177 - 5 December 2020

Contemporary, Modern Art and Old Masters Lot 93

Léon Spilliaert (Belgium / 1881 - 1946)
Le hangar du dirigeable (The Airship's hangar) (1910)


€ 60 000 - 80 000

"Léon Spilliaert of de schoonheid van een wijs hart" Anne Adriaens-Pannier/Ronny Van de Velde, Pandora 1998, cat. nr. 81, p. 153 reprod.
Offa Gal., Knokke 2002
"Bulletin MRBAB/KMSKB" Anne Adriaens-Pannier, 1-3, 1989-1991, p. 526, reprod. 13, cat. 2
The work will be included in the catalogue raisonné in preparation by Dr. Anne Adriaens-Pannier


When the scientist Robert Goldschmidt, a collector of Spilliaert's work, requested that the artist make a series of drawings of an airship, he probably expected a symbiosis between science and art. Spilliaert was fascinated by the ingenuity of technical accomplishment.

Some fifteen large-format ink wash and pastel works dating from 1910 are based on the flight of the airship Belgique II. In terms of design and coloration, some come close to depicting the reality of the hanger and the airship whilst others portray a heavily stylised version of the subject.

In two gouaches, Spilliaert depicts the hangar as the ‘holy of holies'. The threatening, stormy sky, and the discordant colours of dark purple, bright orange and green, all lend the building and its surroundings a sinister air. The diagonal lines delineating the hangar in a vanishing one-point perspective form an alarming antithesis to the upward spiral that catapults the balloon high up into the blue sky like a tiny phantom. The deep black area in the foreground – which suggests a bottomless abyss – seems almost to foreshadow the tragic conclusion to the flights of the Belgique II, which crashed three days after the first test flight.

(from: "Spilliaert, from the depths of the soul" Anne Adriaens-Pannier 2006, p. 110-112)

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