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Document Details :
Title: De mise-en-scène van het 19de eeuwse kunstenaarsatelier
Author(s): VAN SANTVOORT, Linda
Journal: Tijdschrift voor Interieurgeschiedenis en Design
Volume: 32 Issue: Date: 2003
The Mise-en-scène of the 19th-century Art Studio
The exhibition, Mise-en-scène. Keizer Karel en de verbeelding van de negentiende eeuw (Emperor Charles and the nineteenth-century imagination) (Ghent 2000), brought renewed attention to long-forgotten historical paintings and their makers. One of the points of focus in this exhibition was the analysis of historical image-creation: that is, how certain scenes were portrayed, and the degree of attention accorded to décor, props and the totality of the image’s composition. Establishing the relation between this image-creation and they way the artist ‘staged’ his own living and working environment can provide a point of departure for interesting comparisons and confrontations.
Lourens Alma Tadema – an artist of Frisian descent who lived for a long time in Antwerp and Brussels before finally moving to London – declared that the light and the colour of a studio greatly influenced his work. Both his art and his successive studios were the subject of much discussion and set the trend. All the ingredients of the 19th-century art of the interior found their expression in his successive dwellings.
Historical and portrait painters were particularly assiduous in the decoration and especially the furnishing of their studios and general surroundings – indeed, the distinction between work space and living space was often barely perceptible.
A peek into the studios or the living rooms of Hendrik Leys and Nicaise de Keyzer in Antwerp, of Willem Geets in Mechelen, or of Emile Wauters, Antoine Van Hammée and Jean-Baptiste Robie in Brussels offers a good picture of the typical 19th-century studio culture. This becomes especially interesting when these studio interiors are juxtaposed with the work of the artist, revealing parallels in terms of construction, of mise-en-scène. And despite the great differences between studios mentioned above, an overabundance of décor is a common element in all of them. While this luxury and excess very much suited the tastes of a certain audience – in particular precisely that audience with whom these painters (of portraits and historical/military subjects) dealt – there was also criticism. The term pompier (pompous) was not infrequently invoked, with all its negative associations.
“To speak of the villa Fernand Khnopff is to speak of one of the artist’s greatest works; it is the expression of his own personality(...)”. This comment appeared in the English magazine, The Studio (1912). The same elements found in Khnopff’s art are also found in his self-designed art-nouveau house in Brussels. Taking the Khnopff dwelling as a starting point, the link can be made to other studio-dwellings further afield, such as the Casa Tadema in London and the Von Stuck Villa in Munich.
Artists applied the concept of the mise-en-scèneto the point of painstakingly concealing the work space, and making a distinction between the ‘exhibition room’ (which was often also a receiving area) and the work room. This was especially true of sculptors. A look at the Brussels salon-studio of the sculptor Guillaume De Groot reveals this practice.
The studio culture became less fashionable towards the end of the 19thcentury as (some) artists began to distance themselves from what they saw as artificial. Plein-airismesignalled the end of this studio culture.