Léon Spilliaert Biography
Spilliaert was born in Ostend, the oldest of seven children of Léonard-Hubert Spilliaert, who was a perfumer, and Léonie (née Jonckheere). From childhood he displayed an interest in art and drawing. A prolific doodler and autodidact, he was predominantly a self taught artist. Sickly and reclusive, he spent most of his youth sketching scenes of ordinary life and the Belgian countryside. When he was 21 he went to work in Brussels for Edmond Demon, a publisher of the works of symbolist writers, which Spilliaert was to illustrate. He especially admired the work of Edgar Allan Poe.
Watercolor, gouache, and charcoal were the means by which he produced much of his best work, including a number of self-portraits executed in black crayon in the early years of the twentieth century. A significant influence on Spilliaert was Odilon Redon, whose expressive use of black finds parallels in his own work. Frequently depicting a lone figure in a dreamlike space, Spilliaert's paintings convey a sense of melancholy and silence.
His later work shows a concentration on seascapes. He died on November 23, 1946 in Brussels.