Verhaeren was born in Saint-Amand, on the banks of the River Scheldt, in 1855, to a family of merchants. Instead of taking over his parents’ business, he chose to publish poems and art reviews. The provincial museum Emile Verhaeren, near his birthplace, is currently running the new exhibition ‘Fleurs fatales/Poétique de l’amour’, focusing on three books that Verhaeren dedicated to his wife Marthe Massin: Les heures claires, Les Heures d’après-midi and Les Heures du soir. Les Fleurs fatales, after which the exhibition is named, is a series of pictures of broken vases by photographer Jan Agten, which add a modern touch to the exhibition.
The exhibition also features a series of drawings and paintings by Marthe Massin, which have never been exhibited before. A talented painter, Massin chose to give up her artistic career to support her husband, who didn’t expect anything else. She made sketches of the poet (at his desk, reading, etc.) – unfortunately none of the man in everyday life – and often drew the interior of their house at Saint-Cloud, which was also painted by other artists, notably Van Rysselberghe.
Massin’s paintings have always remained in the family. However, though not really innovative, her still lives might have been appreciated by a certain audience on account of their luminist technique. In fact, we’re sure they would. Yet how could that compare to the international fame of her husband, the poet? Verhaeren’s poems have been translated into German, English … and even Japanese. The man was nominated for the Nobel Prize (which, that year, the poet Maeterlinck, from Ghent, won). He supported the monarchy after the German invasion in 1914. Marthe Massin’s role was that of the coordinator behind the great man, a role she kept playing after her husband’s accidental death in 1916. It is great to see how the exhibition, in this original museum, showcases her artistic talent and her role in the communication about the oeuvre of her husband whom she inspired.
Verhaeren is not the most read poet these days, although his direct style to describe sensations and feelings is really charming and intriguing. On comparing the Dutch translation of three books of Verhaeren (Tuin van de liefde. Getijdenboek, 111p) by the Flemish poet Stefaan van den Bremt with the French original, we discover two things: Verhaeren really knew the local Flemish people of the time and the two languages offer two ways of reasoning.
From 15 October 2015 to 26 March 2016, the Museum of Avelines in Saint-Cloud will run the exhibition Emile Verhaeren (1855-1916) Poet and Art Trader, where you’ll see Verhaeren’s oeuvre celebrated amidst some other big names of the time. (www.musee-saintcloud.fr)
Fleurs fatales/Poétique de l’amour
Provinciaal Museum Emile Verhaerens
71 Emile Verhaerenstraat
Until 29 November
Tuesdays-Sundays, from 11:00 to 18:00h