In Memory of Felicien Rops, 1833 – 1898
Let Me Talk Over Your Left Shoulder, inspired by the works of Baudelairian artist Felicien Rops,
Oil on canvas, 11 inches by 14 inches, 2010
Rops is a Baudelairian graphic artist much admired by Péladan; a Belgian who lived most of his life in Paris.
He attended the Namur Académie, then went on to Brussels while attending the workshop of Saint-Luc. In 1856 he founded the satirical weekly ‘Uylenspiegel’. In 1868 he became Vice-President of the Société Libre des Beaux-Arts de Brussels. In 1870 he founded the Society of Etchers.
He settled in Paris in 1874 where he was welcomed by Puvis de Chavannes and Gustave Moreau. He engraved and illustrated (Baudelaire, Barbey d’Aurevilly), and had close links with Péladan, who admired him, though Rops seems not to have taken Péladan too seriously.
He was a lover of the fantastic and the supernatural, and his themes are frequently Symbolist in kind. The devil, skeletons, the prostitute, and death are the Baudelairian accessories of his art. In fact, despite Péladan’s appeals, Rops was not very interested in the Rose+Croix artists, and much more so in the mores of his time, in the singularities of the modern mind as it appeared in the spectacle of Parisian life.
His libertine life and scandalous and erotic subjects made him infamous in his own lifetime.
Rops enjoyed the honour of having been noticed before 1870 by Baudelaire himself, who had written after a trip to Belgium:
‘The frolicsome Monsieur Rops
Is no great Prix de Rome,
But his talent is as grand
As the pyramid of Cheops.’
The poet regarded Rops as the only artist alive in Belgium worthy of that name, and it was in his company that, in 1866, while visiting a church, he suffered a paralyzing attack from which he would never recover.
Huysmans stated that Rops “celebrated that spiritualism of Luxury that is Satanism, and painted, in pages that cannot be perfected, the supernaturalism of perversity, the otherworld of Evil.”