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Léon Spilliaert, Self-Portrait with Blue Suit - 1921

Watercolour, and gouache on paper, 341 x 252 mm

(Private Collection)

On 28 July 1921, Léon Spilliaert (1881-1946) turned forty.

Self-Portrait with Blue Suit depicts him in an unabashed mood, with open collar and loose tie, staring the future straight in the eye. He was midway through his career and had already created a substantial oeuvre. It was time to take stock. He had grand plans but, at the same time, delighted in precious domestic moments.

On the 1st of January 1921, he wrote an ambitious New Year’s letter to his friend Henri Vandeputte:

‘Mon bien cher ami, I too experience the creation of a new oeuvre with the same pleasure. I am convinced that a strong work always reaches its audience. The greatest happiness lies in reaching it immediately and not five hundred years after its death. (...) Let us hope to reach our audience as soon as possible, so that we can live out our old age in joy and peace, surrounded by admiration and love. For you as well as for me, the heydays are coming. Maintenant ou jamais [now or never]. (...) We are exceptionally ambitious and incredibly proud.’