11 September 2013

Franz Melchers - And Some Others

The last of the (monthly) illustrations by Franz Melchers for L'An was posted here
L'An  (The Year) by Thomas Braun is an undeservedly obscure book that was first published in 1897 by Editions Claesens, Brussels & Lyon and, to the best of my knowledge, never yet reprinted.   It was the first of many books of poetry written by Thomas Braun (1876-1971), a Belgian known equally during his lifetime as a prominent jurist. 
Braun was married to Marguerite van Mons (1876-1919).  What we know best about Marguerite is her portrait, painted by Theo van Rysselbegrhe when Marguerite was ten years old.  Two years before van Rysselberghe  had painted her sister older sister Camille, a less accomplished work but the family was  pleased enough to commission a second portrait by the young artist, still in his twenties.    Van Rysselberghe joined the avant-garde group Les XX in 1883, at around the same time as Fernand Khnopff.    Khnopff executed a series of portraits of children of his Brussels acquaintances during the 1880s and Van Rysselberghe's Portrait of Marguerite van Mons has been often compared to them.  Although the colors in Khnopff's portrait of his sister Marguerite (1887) and of Marguerite Landuyt (1897) are similarly blues and golds, the one that van Rysselberghe would have seen is Khnopff's Portrait of Jeanne Kefer (1885), a three year old standing in front of a door, painted in pinks and greens.  Sometimes in art similarities are less traceable to influence than to a general aesthetic vibe in the air.
Getting back to L'An, it was published in an unusual and costly large square format, with the most up-to-date color process available at the time.  Clearly the publisher saw something special in this collaboration and a new edition would be welcome.

Theo van Rysselberghe (1862-1926) - Portrait of Marguerite von Mons, 1886, Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent.


T. M. H. said...

Thank you again for your wonderful blog and your information about the "Portrait of Marguerite van Mons". Since years a poster of this painting welcomes my guests (and me) at my apartment door.

Jane said...

T.M.H., thank you. What a welcoming picture it is, now that you point it out.