In 1900 Fernand Khnopff had a house built to his plans. It was a house without windows.
Silence and solitude were central themes in the work of the Belgian Symbolist, a truly unique figure in dandy genealogy who was both a reclusive artist and sought-after society man.
Khnopff’s home, a spectacular piece of artifice reminiscent of Ludwig II’s Neuschwanstein and the sanctuary of Des Esseintes in Huysmans’ “Against Nature,” was Khnopff’s “temple of the self.” Above the entrance door was inscribed his motto: “On n’a que soi” — one has only oneself.
Khnopff took the Brummellian (or rather Baudelairean) route of sartorial sobriety: “Beautiful red hair of a barbarian,” said poet Emile Verhaeren in describing Khnopff; “upright posture, neatly dressed, a simple person who had a horror of appearing disheveled; a clergyman in the process of becoming a dandy.” Historian Robert Delevoy writes that Khnopff displayed “narcissism, inside an armor of haughtiness, irony and scorn.” Amen to that.
Khnopff was briefly married. “Celibacy was his natural state,” writes Delevoy. In the 1930s, a decade after the artist’s death, his home was destroyed — with the approval of Khnopff’s family — to make way for an apartment building.
Dandyism.net webmaster Christian M. Chensvold recently posted a story on Khnopff, including an interview with a curator from the J. Paul Getty Museum, at his other site, FineArtsLA.com.
Other notable links:
A fascinating article on Khnopff’s home from 1912.
Review of a recent exhibit in Brussels.
“Obsession: My Lifetime with Fernand Khnopff” by Jeffery Howe.
And finally, a video montage of the artist’s work: