Les XX

Les XX

Les XX was a group of twenty Belgian painters, designers and sculptors, formed in 1883 by the Brussels lawyer, publisher, and entrepreneur Octave Maus. For ten years these 'vingtistes', as they called themselves, held an annual exhibition of their art; each year twenty international artists were also invited to participate in the exhibition. Artists invited over the years included: Camille Pissarro (1887, 1889, 1891), Claude Monet (1886, 1889), Georges Seurat (1887, 1889, 1891, 1892), Paul Gauguin (1889, 1891), Paul Cézanne (1890), and Vincent van Gogh (1890, 1891).

Les XX was in some ways a successor to the group L'Essor. The rejection of Ensor's 'The Oyster Eater' in 1883 by L'Essor Salon, following the earlier rejection by the Antwerp Salon, was one of the events that led to the formation of Les XX.

After the exhibition of 1892, the society of Les XX was transformed into "La Libre Esthétique"

Eleven Founding Members

*James Ensor 1860-1949
*Théo van Rysselberghe 1862-1926
*Fernand Khnopff 1858-1921
*Alfred William Finch
*Frantz Charlet b 1862
*Paul Dubois
*Charles Goethals c1853–85
*Darío de Regoyos (Spanish)
*Willy Schlobach b 1864
*Guillaume Van Strydonck 1861–1937
*Rodolphe Wytsman 1860–1927

Nine Invited Members

*Guillaume Vogels
*Achille Chainaye 1862–1915
*Jean Delvin b 1853
*Jef Lambeaux
*Périclès Pantazis (Greek) 1849-1884
*Frans Simons 1855–1919
*Gustave Vanaise 1854–1902
*Piet Verhaert 1852–1908
*Théodore Verstraete 1850–1907

Twelve Later Invited Members

*Felicien Rops 1833-1898
*Georges Lemmen 1865-1916
*George Minne 1866-1941
*Anna Boch 1848-1926
*Henry van de Velde
*Guillaume Charlier
*Henry De Groux
*Robert Picard b 1870
*Jan Toorop (Dutch)
*Odilon Redon (French)
*Paul Signac (French)
*Isidore Verheyden

Others Associated with Les XX

*Henri Jacques Evenepoel 1872-1899
*Xavier Mellery 1845-1921
*Jean Delville 1867-1953
*William Degouve de Nuncques 1867-1935
*Rik Wouters 1882-1916
*Eugène Laermans
*Philippe Wolfers
*Charles van der Stappen 1843-1910


*Max Liebermann (German) 1847-1935
*John Singer Sargent (American) 1856-1925
*James McNeil Whistler (American) 1834-1903
*William Merritt Chase (American) 1849-1916
*William Stott (British) 1857-1900
*Walter Crane (British) 1845-1915

*Paul Cézanne
*Claude Monet
*Auguste Renoir
*Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
*Georges Seurat
*Paul Gauguin
*Alfred Sisley


Villiers de l'Isle-Adam, Paul Verlaine, Stephane Mallarme


Cesar Franck, Vincent d'Indy, Gabriel Faure, Ernest Chausson, Eugene Ysaye (violinist)

Belgian exhibition society. It was founded on 28 October 1883 in Brussels and held annual shows there between 1884 and 1893. No president or governing committee. The group was formed by 11 artists dissatisfied with the conservative policies of the organization L’Essor and the official academic Salon. L'Essor ('Soaring') was set up also in opposition to the Salon, but with a strong bureaucratic element of twenty Essorians comprising a governing committee. Octave Maus (lawyer, journalist, art critic) acted as the secretary of Les XX, which was free of stifling regualtions. He was nicknamed Joyeux by the musician Alberic Magnard. The extent of governing was done by a rotating committee of three which organized the exhibitions. Painters played key roles in hanging their works. In addition to the twenty members, twenty international invitees would also exhibit.

Octave Maus, Edmond Picard and Emile Verhaeren (Belgian poet) were the driving force of the associated review, L'Art Moderne. (Created in 1881) There was a close tie between art and literature among the Les XX artists as is usually the case among Symbolist painters.

The ten "Annual Exhibitions" of Les XX, 1884-1893


The first of ten annual exhibitions was held on 2 February at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Whistler sent Maus an illustration for the catalogue to this opening exhibition. One of the stipulations was that twenty artists, both Belgian and foreign, would be invited each year to exhibit with the founding members of Les XX. In the first year's show the foreign invitees included Auguste Rodin, John Singer Sargent, Max Liebermann, Whistler and William Merritt Chase. Claude Debussy, Ernest Chausson and Gabriel Fauré gave concerts, and lectures where given by Stéphane Mallarmé, Théodore de Wyzewa and Paul Verlaine.

Whistler exhibited four paintings: Symphony in White, No. 3, Nocturne: Blue and Silver - Chelsea, Harmony in Grey and Green: Miss Cicely Alexander and Arrangement in Brown and Black: Portrait of Miss Rosa Corder, and a number of his Venice etchings.

Pantazis died before the opening and shortly after Lambeaux and Verhaert resigned, disconcerted by the progressive spirit allied to the group.


No exhibition


Whistler exhibited Arrangement in Black: Portrait of Señor Pablo de Sarasate and in 1888 Arrangement in Black and Brown: The Fur Jacket, mistaken by Maus for a portrait of Lady A. Campbell. Whistler and Maus were in correspondence during this time. In his letters Maus reverently referred to Whistler as 'mon cher Maître'. He wrote to a friend in November 1886, 'As for Whistler, my dear friend, you know that I admire the artist, and that I am very fond of the man.' However, he objected to Whistler's admission to the Société des XX, on the grounds that 'he is a foreigner and lives abroad'

Monet and Renoir exhibit.

May: Verhaeren in Paris for publication for poems, Les Moines.


Pissarro Morisot and Seurat exhibit (Monet and Renoir??) Seurat and Signac present.

Conservative artists Lambeaux, Verhaert, Verstraete, Simons, Delvin and Vanaise had fled from Les XX, some under direct pressure from Maus and Picard.


Octave Maus' essay "Painting and the search for light" accompanies the catalogue.

Whistler shown.

Pissarro Morisot and Seurat (Monet and Renoir??) as well as new comers Caillebotte, Cross, Lautrec, Dubois-Pillet and Signac exhibit.1889

George Minne joins Les XX


Xavier Mellery (intimisme) showed seven drawings, "the inner life of things".


French posters and book illustrations by Walter Crane shown for first time. Finch's first attempts at ceramics. Three vases and a statue by invitee Paul Gauguin.


Jean Delville was the leader of the schism which broke out the year of the first Rose+Croix exhibition.


Maus proposed that Les XX should be dissolved. In the following year he founded La Libre Esthétique, but World War I brought it to an end.


Primary Sources

*Octave Maus: "L’Espagne des artistes" (Brussels, 1887).
*Octave Maus: "Souvenirs d’un Wagnériste: Le Théâtre de Bayreuth" (Brussels, 1888).
*Octave Maus: "Les Préludes: Impressions d’adolescence" (Brussels, 1921).
*Madeleine Octave-Maus: "Trente années"

econdary Sources

*"Autour de 1900: L'Art Belge (1884-1918)". London: The Arts Council, 1965.
*Block, Janet. "Les XX and Belgian Avant-Gardism 1868-1894."Studies in Fine Arts: The Avant garde. Ann Arbor: UMI Research press, 1984.
*"Les XX, Bruxelles. Catalogue des dix expositions annuelles." Brussels: Centre international pour l'étude de XIXe siècle, 1981.
*Stevens, Mary Anne and Robert Hoozee, eds. "Impressionism to Symbolism: The Belgian Avant-Garde 1880-1900." exhib. cat. London: Royal Academy of Arts, London 7 July - 2 October 1994.

External links

* [http://www.arto.be/CONTENT/NL/04_VERENIGINGEN/02_VERENIGINGEN.cfm?VER=94 Biografisch Lexicon: Plastisch Kunst in België]

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