Fernand Khnopff (Grembergen, Belgium, 1858 – Brussels, 1921) was one of the key figures of Pictorial Symbolism and a founding member of the avant-garde group Les XX. After abandoning his law degree, he studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels with Xavier Mellery, and alongside James Ensor. In Paris he discovered the work of his contemporaries Gustave Moreau and Edward Burne-Jones. Fernand Khnopff’s paintings are characterized by mysterious and deliquescent atmospheres that resonate with the suggestive poetryof Symbolism.
His relationship with novelist Joséphin Péladan, who was a Grand Master of L’ordre de la Rose+Croix du Temple et du Graal [The Order of the Rose-Cross] influenced his career, steering it toward introspection and mysticism. Beginning in 1880 he came into contact with English artists William Holman Hunt, George Frederic Watts, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ford Madox Brown, and Edward Burne-Jones. He was a correspondent for the British magazine The Studio. Khnopff collaborated with artists belonging to the Vienna Secession movement and was an important influence on Gustav Klimt. His Secession style home-studio in Brussels was conceived as a “temple of the self,” along the lines of the house belonging to the characterJean des Esseintes in J.-K. Huysmans’ symbolist literary fantasy À rebours [Against the Grain] (1884). In his later years Khnopff was a successful set and costume designer for plays and operas.