After studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent and the Academy of Brussels, Théo van Rysselberghe discovered Georges Seurat alongside Émile Verhaeren in 1886-1887. He was a friend of Octave Maus and one of the founding members of the avant-garde Brussels group, Les Vingt, in 1883. Pointillism in his late 19th century paintings made way for compositions with wide elongated strokes. Like Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, he painted countless marine landscapes. He did several portraits which were mainly of his loved ones including Alice Sèthe. His work highlighted the setting with accurate painting which contrasted with the synthetic vision of French pointillists. His characters didn’t have the same “solemnness” as Seurat’s. As well as Post-Impressionism, the artist was also influenced by Japanism and particularly admired Hiroshige. His marine landscapes became simpler and contrasted with the luxurious details in his portraits. From 1910, he painted a number of groups of female nudes which he made his favourite subject: L'heure embrasée (1897), baigneuse autour d'un rocher (1910), Baigneuses à Cavalière (1910). He also painted solo nudes (Nageuse au repos: 1922, L'Ablution ou Vénus accroupie: 1922). However, there’s little place for eroticism, at least for the author André Gide who described them as “hygienic nudes”. This period saw him transition under Post-Impressionist influences and a tendency towards Classicism. Théo van Rysselberghe also illustrated the anthology by Émile Verhaeren (Almanach in 1895) with letters, arabesques and drawings. He decorated some exhibition catalogues for Les Vingt. He settled in Le Lavandou in the late 1890s and returned to a certain type of Classicism. His studio villa is intrinsic to Le Lavandou’s architectural and cultural identity. It’s bigger than the town: it’s a symbol of how countless artists and intellectuals moved to Provence, Le Lavandou in particular, in the late 19th century. They helped build and promote a new cultural identity for the region in terms of architecture, be it residences, places where the artists visited or cultural sites, and the many masterpieces that immortalised and idealised its scenery. Given its unique features and history, the Van Rysselberghe villa is key to the town’s legacy and was approved as “20th century heritage” by the French Ministry of Culture in 2000.
Renovation of Théo Van Rysselberghe villa in Lavandou