Spilliaert made this picture in 1907, when he was in his twenties and living and working at his parents’ home on the Belgian coast. He found his subject matter close at hand: the beach, the sea, and his own person, depicted in moody, dramatically-lit self-portraits like this one. Here, the artist shows himself astride a chair, his drawing board propped up before him. Although he is surrounded by everyday objects—a coat rack, an umbrella, and a gas lamp—the double reflection of the mirrors in the background adds a note of strangeness to the scene.
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Medium:Gouache, watercolor, and colored pencil on paper
Dimensions:20 3/4 × 14 7/8 in. (52.7 × 37.8 cm)
Credit Line:Gift of William S. Lieberman, in honor of A. Hyatt Mayor, 1980
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left): L. Spilliaert / Nov. 07
[Piccadilly Gallery, London, until 1977; inv. no. 14095; sold in 1977 to Lieberman]; William S. Lieberman, New York (1977–80; his gift to MMA)
Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Extraordinary Men," June 2–July 17, 1977, no catalogue (typed checklist no. 13; on extended loan to the Museum of Modern Art, New York).
Palm Beach, Fla. Society of the Four Arts. "Extraordinary People: Portraits on Paper of Artists and Writers From the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art," March 11–April 16, 1978, no. 53 (as an extended loan to MoMA).
Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Artists and Writers," July 10–October 3, 1978, no. 53.
Huntington, N. Y. Heckscher Museum. "As We See Ourselves: Artists Self-Portraits," June 22–August 5, 1979, unnumbered cat. (p. 29; lent by the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Extended loan).
Washington, D. C. Phillips Collection. "Leon Spilliaert: Symbol and Expression in 20th Century Belgian Art," April 17–June 8, 1980, no. 11 (lent by a private collection, New York).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Leon Spilliaert: Symbol and Expression in 20th Century Belgian Art," June 15–September 15, 1980, no. 11.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "60 Drawings: Recent Acquisitions," October 23, 1990–January 15, 1991, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings: Additions to the Collection," May 23–September 29, 1991, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Small Interiors," February 17–July 21, 1996, no catalogue.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Looking At You," January 26–September 30, 2001, no catalogue.
Brussels. Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique. "Léon Spilliaert," September 22, 2006–February 4, 2007, no. 151 (as "Self-Portrait with Drawing Board").
Paris. Musée d'Orsay. "Léon Spilliaert: Self-Portraits," March 6–May 27, 2007, no catalogue.
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Léon Spilliaert," August 5–September 20, 2020, no. 79 (as "Self-portrait (with Drawing Board)").
Paris. Musée d'Orsay. "Léon Spilliaert (1881-1946). Light and solitude," October 13, 2020–January 10, 2021, no. 79.
"Artists and Writers." MoMA no. 7 (Summer 1978), p. 6, ill.
Katherine Lochridge et al. As We See Ourselves: Artists Self-Portraits. Exh. cat., Heckscher Museum. Huntington, N. Y., 1979, pp. 15, 24, ill. p. 29.
John Ashbery. "The Belgian Connection." New York Magazine (August 4, 1980), ill. p. 50 (color).
Francine-Claire Legrand. Leon Spilliaert et son époque. Tielt, Belgium, 1981, p. 117, no. 33, fig. 97 and ill. p. 187, locates it still in a private collection, New York.
Xavier Tricot. Leon Spilliaert: Les années 1900–1915. Ghent, 1996, ill. p. 73, calls it "Autoportrait avec planche de dessin" and locates it still in a private collection.
Bernard Dewulf inLéon Spilliaert: A Free Spirit. Exh. cat., Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels. Ghent, 2006, pp. 131–32, no. 151, ill. p. 141 (color), provides a general discussion of the artist's fifteen self-portraits of 1907–8.
Anne Adriaens-Pannier. Léon Spilliaert from the Depths of the Soul. [Brussels], 2019, pp. 61, 72, fig. 89 (color), calls it "Self-Portrait (with drawing board)".
Adrian Locke in Anne Adriaens-Pannier. Léon Spilliaert from the Depths of the Soul. [Brussels], 2019, p. 6.
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