An important member of the Post-Impressionist movement, van Rysselberghe contributed largely to the development and acceptance of Pointillism in his native Belgium. Van Rysselberghe was an enthusiastic follower of Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, whose technical command and chromatic discoveries he admired. His oeuvre was incredibly varied and included virtually every subject—landscapes, portraiture, still life, nudes, figures, animals, orientalist and marines. His command of multiple types of artistic media was also exceptional. Van Rysselberghe worked in drawing, illustration, lithography, etching, watercolors, oils, and even jewelry, calligraphy and the decorative arts. He is credited with reviving the decorative arts in Belgium.
Fortunate enough to be born into a sophisticated bourgeoisie family of architects who supported his artistic studies, van Rysselberghe was atypical from the start. Throughout his life, he was able to travel extensively and without restriction, enabling the burgeoning artist to visit France, Holland, Russia, Turkey, and Greece.
The artist began his studies at the Ghent Academy under Theodore Canneel and at the Brussels Academy under Jean Portaels. While working in Ghent and Brussels, his initial style was traditional and somber. An Orientalist flavor and lighter palette developed as a result of frequent trips to Spain and Morocco on a scholarship. Works of this period include The Fantasia and The Arab Story-Teller, currently in the Museum of Brussels.
Van Rysselberghe changed his style shortly thereafter. In 1884, he founded and exhibited with the avant-garde group of 20, Les Vingt, in Brussels, which encouraged the acceptance of contemporary art and was strongly allied with the French. His brushwork became thicker and his palette brighter. He favored portraiture during this time. A friendship with the poet Verhaeren led him to Paris where the artist first saw La Grande Jatte by Seurat. He did not immediately embrace the scientific aspects of Pointillism, but he did appreciate the color theories and techniques. Soon van Rysselberghe became the first Belgian artist to paint in the Pointillist style, applying dots of paint to canvas in complementary and contrasting colors, juxtaposed side by side.
Van Rysselberghe’s innovative works found venues of exhibition in Brussels, Paris, The Hague, Berlin, Ghent, and Antwerp, among other locations. He became a member of the Royal Academy of Belgium and exhibited with the group French group Vie et Lumiere. His works, some painted in the Fauve palette, were shown at the Salon des Independents (1890-1906). Galleries representing van Rysselberghe included Bernheim and Durand-Ruel in Paris and Giroux in Brussels. Van Rysselberghe furthered his involvement in modern painting with the founding of the Libre Esthetique in Paris.
In 1895, his works crossed over to the decorative arts with designs for posters, jewelry, decorative panels and murals. He settled in Paris a few years later and became friendly with its Symbolists and the literary circles. One famous work of van Rysselberghe’s, The Lecture, features a number of writers from this period.
Museum Collections Include:
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels; Musée des Beaux Arts, Ghent; Folkwang, Essen; Antwerp; Gouda; Athenaeum, Helsinki; Weimar Museum; Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, Albi; Museum of Modern Art, Brussels; City and Land Art Galleries of Lower Saxony, Hanover; Museum of Pictorial Art, Leipzig; Smite Museum, University of Notre Dame; Melton Park Gallery, OK; Kroller-Muller National Museum, Otterloo; Musée d’Orsay, Paris; Phoenix Art Museum, AZ; Museum of the Annunciation, St. Tropez; Boymans and Van Bennigan Museum, Rotterdam; Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, MA