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Félicien Rops (1833 - 1898)

Lifespan: 1833 - 1898

Related: 1800s - Pornokrates (1879) - fantastic art - Decadent movement - fin de siècle - Belgian erotic arts - Symbolism - Belgian arts

Belgian artist Félicien Rops was a lover of the fantastic and the supernatural, and his themes are frequently Symbolist in kind. Satanic images, skeletons, prostitutes, and death are the Baudelairean accessories of his art. His libertine life and scandalous and erotic subjects made him infamous in his own lifetime. [Dec 2006]

Illustrated: Les Fleurs du Mal (1857) - Charles Baudelaire - The She-Devils (1874) - Barbey d'Aurevilly

Felicien Rops (2003) - Patrick Bade [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Befriended with: Charles Baudelaire

Rops on his friendship with Baudelaire:
"I was, I believe, not merely a friend, but the most faithful and respectful companion to Baudelaire, I "lightened his sadness in Belgium", as he describes it in a dedication which is very dear to me....". [Jul 2006]

Years active: 1850s - 1860s - 1870s - 1880s - 1890s

Les Epaves frontispiece (1866) - Félicien Rops [detail]

Pornokrates (1879) - Félicien Rops

Frontispiece for 'Les Diaboliques' by Barbey d'Aurevilly Painted by Félicien Rops in 1886
image sourced here.


My first exposure to the work of Bosch was in Brussels, I was spending the weekend there with a couple of Ilse's friends and I saw a poster of Pornokrates in a shop window. I was immediately taken with this transgressive picture and asked the shop lady if I could have the poster. I guess Rops was my second exposure to the Decadent movement, after I'd read The Picture of Dorian Gray in high school.

Most recently I saw a major retrospective of his work in Rotterdam with Dominique. [Dec 2006]


Félicien Rops (July 7, 1833 - August 23, 1898) was a Belgian artist and engraver.

Rops was born in Namur, Belgium in 1833, and was educated at the University of Brussels. Rops's forte was drawing more than painting in oils; he first won fame as a caricaturist. He met Charles Baudelaire towards the end of Baudelaire's life in 1864, and Baudelaire left an impression upon him that lasted until the end of his days. Rops created the frontispiece for Baudelaire's Les Epaves, a selection of poems from Les fleurs du mal that had been censored in France, and which therefore were published in Belgium.

Rops's association with Baudelaire and with the art he represented won his work the admiration of many other writers, including Théophile Gautier, Alfred de Musset, Stéphane Mallarmé, Jules Barbey d’Aurevilly, André de Nerciat and Joséphin Peladan. He was closely associated with the literary movement of Symbolism and Decadence. Like the works of the authors whose poetry he illustrated, his work tends to mingle sex, death, and Satanic images.

Rops's eyesight began to fail in 1892. He kept up his literary associations until his death.

Based on a [Aug 2004] version of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Felicien_Rops

Profile from the 1911 encyclopedia

ROPS, FELICIEN (1833-1898), Belgian painter, designer and engraver, was born at Namur, in Belgium, on the 7th of July 1833; he spent his childhood in that town, and afterwards in Brussels, where he composed in 1856, for his friends at the university, the Almanach Crocodilien, his first piece of work. He also biought out two Salons Illustrés, and collaborated on the Crocodile, a magazine produced by the students. The humour shown in his contributions attracted the attention of publishers, who offered him work. He designed, among other things, frontispieces for Poulet-Malassis, and afterwards for Gay and Douc. In 1859 he began to contribute to a satirical journal in Brussels called Uylenspiegel, a sort of Charivari. The issue, limited unfortunately to two years, included his finest lithographs.

About 1862 he went to Paris and worked at Jacquemarts. He subsequently returned to Brussels, where he founded the short-lived International Society of Etchers. In 1865 he brought out his famous Buveuse d'Absinthe, which placed him in the foremost rank of Belgian engravers; and in 1871 the Dame au Pantin. After 1874 Rops resided in Paris. His talent, which commanded attention by its novel methods of expression, and had been stimulated by travels in Hungary, Holland and Norway, whence he brought back characteristic sketches, now took a soaring flight. To say nothing of the six hundred original engravings enumerated in Ramiros Catalogue of Rops Engraved Work (Paris, Conquet, 1887), and one hundred and eighty from lithographs (Ramiros Catalogue of Rops Lithographs, Paris, Conquet, 1891), besides a large number of oil-paintings in the manner of Courbet, and of pencil or pen-and-ink drawings, he executed several very remarkable water-color pictures, among which are Le Scandale, 1876; Une Attrapade, 1877 (now in the Brussels Museum); a Tentation de St Antoine, 1878; and Pornocrates, 1878. Most of these have been engraved and printed in colors by Bertrand.

From 1880 to 1890 he devoted himself principally to illustrating books: Les Rimes de joie, by Tho Hannon; Le Vice supreme and Curieuse, by J. Pladan; and Les Diaboliques, by Barbey d'Aurvilly; L'Amante du Christ, by R. Darzens; and Zadig, by Voltaire; and the poems of Stéphane Mallarmé have frontispieces due to his fertile and powerful imagination. Before this he had illustrated the Légendes Flamandes, by Ch. Decoster; Jeune France, by Tb. Gautier and brought out a volume of Cent Croquis pour rejouir les Honnetes Gens. His last piece of work, an advertisement of an exhibition, was done in November 1896. Rops died on the 23rd of August 1898, at Essonnes, Seine-et-Oise, on the estate he had purchased, where he lived in complete retirement with his family. Scorning display, Rops almost always opposed any exhibition of his works. However, he consented to join the Art Society of the " XX.," formed at Brussels in 1884, as their revolutionary views were in harmony with the independence of his spirit. After his death, in 1899, the Libre Esthetique, which in 1894 had succeeded the "XX.," arranged a retrospective exhibition, which included about fifty paintings and drawings by Rops. Rops was a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. He excelled in these three methods of artistic expression; but his engraved work is the most important, both as to mastery of technique and originality of ideas, though in all his talent was exceedingly versatile. Hardly any artist of the i9th century equalled him in the use of the dry-point and soft varnish. By his assured handling and admirable draughtsmanship, as well as the variety of his sometimes wildly fantastic conceptions, he made his place among the great artists of his time. " Giving his figures a character of grace which never lapses into limpness," says his biographer, E. Ramiro, " he has analysed and perpetuated the human form in all the elegance and development impressed on it by modern civilization."

In 1896 La Plume (Paris) devoted a special number to this artist, fully illustrated, by which the public were made aware how many of his works are unsuitable for display in the drawing-room or boudoir. E. Deman, the publisher at Brussels, brought out a volume in 1897 with the title, Felicien Rops et son oeuvrepapers by various writers. We may also mention a study of Felicien Rops, by Eugene Demolder (Paris, Princebourde, 1894), and another by the same writer in Trois Contemporains (E Deman, 1901); Les Ropsiaques, by Pierre Gaume, brought out in London, 1898; and the admirable notice by T. K. Huysmans in his volume called Certains. (O. M.*) --http://81.1911encyclopedia.org/R/RO/ROPS_FELICIEN.htm [Sept 2004]

La Pieuvre/Octopus - Félicien Rops

La Pieuvre/Octopus - Félicien Rops (1833 - 1898)
sourced here. [Apr 2005]

see also: Félicien Rops - tentacle

Baudelaire [...]

  • 1864: Charles Baudelaire meets Félicien Rops for the first time in Brussels.
      Baudelaire and Rops first met through the editor Auguste Poulet-Malassis.

      In a letter written to Edouard Manet, May 11 1865, the poet said:
      "Rops is the one true artist - what I and perhaps I alone mean by artist - that I have found in Belgium!"

      Rops for his part said:
      "I was, I believe, not merely a friend, but the most faithful and respectful companion to Baudelaire, I "lightened his sadness in Belgium", as he describes it in a dedication which is very dear to me....".

      The poet visited Namur and the family château of Thozée many times.
      -- http://www.ciger.be/rops/biography/baudelaire.html

    The Temptation of Saint Anthony (1878) - Félicien Rops

    The Temptation of Saint Anthony (1878) - Félicien Rops

    See also: Saint Anthony - Belgium - Félicien Rops - 1878 - art - decadents

    Pornocrates: an introduction to the life and work of Felicien Rops, 1833-1898 (1969) - Rops, Félicien, and Brison, Charles [Amazon.com]

    Felicien Rops (2003) - Patrick Bade

    Felicien Rops is a very surprising artist. Engraver and drawer of exception, Rops captures and anticipates, with astonishing talent, the female bodies with great modernity. Abandoning the conventional forms of the time, the artist creates a world full of humour, tenderness and, at times, insolence for the jubilation of the spectator's eye. --Book Description

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