Jean Delville

Belgium / 1867 - 1953 / wikipedia /
Jean Delville was born in Louvain in 1867 and died in 1953. He headed the Brussels branch of the Rosicrucian revival, and organized Salons de l'Art Idéaliste in imitation of Joséphin Péladan's Parisian Salons de la Rose+Croix. These Salons commenced in 1896.

The Salons d'Art Idéaliste were intended to continue the grand tradition of idealistic art, which Delville traced back to the ancient Greeks and Egyptians. Delville rejected a long list of popular subjects, including:

"...history painting (except synthetic, or symbolic history), military painting, all representations of contemporary life, private or public, portraits, if it is not iconic, scenes of peasant life, seascapes, landscapes, humorous scenes, picturesque orientalism, domestic animals or sport animals, paintings of flowers, fruits, or accessories."
-- J. Delville, quoted in J. Dujardin, L'Art Flamand, vol. 6, 1900, p. 190, translation mine.

Delville had considerable academic success: he won the Prix de Rome in 1895, and was a professor at the Glasgow School of Art for a number of years in the early 20th century. He admired the great artists of the Italian Renaissance, especially Raphael, Leonardo, and Michelangelo, and tried to imitate them. He emphasized content over form, preferring a mediocre painting of a spiritual thought to a great painting of a realist scene.

As a mystic strongly influenced by Neoplatonism, Delville believed that visible reality was only a symbol, and that humans exist in 3 planes: the physical (the realm of facts), the astral (or spiritual world, the realm of laws), and the divine (the realm of causes). These higher planes of existence were the only significant ones. Materialism was a trap, and the soul had to guard against being trapped by its snares. The human body he considered to a potential prison for the soul. Rejecting Darwinism and evolution, Delville refused to believe that humans had come from...
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