Félicien Rops: The Irreverent Symbolist 1

The Eclectic Light Company

This week’s Symbolist artist is the notorious Félicien Rops (1833–1898), who shocked the public during the last couple of decades of the nineteenth century with his irreverent and often explicitly sexual drawings, prints and paintings. Although closely associated with literary figures including Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Verlaine, his work has slipped into relative obscurity, and critics have often dismissed it.

Félicien Victor Joseph Rops was born in Namur, a Walloon city in the Ardennes in Belgium. He came from an affluent family, and in 1851 went to the University of Brussels to read law. A couple of years later he seems to have transferred his attention to the Academy of Saint Luke, where he studied drawing and started living a more bohemian lifestyle, alongside the likes of Constantin Meunier. He also seems to have learned printmaking at this time, and in 1856 co-founded a satirical weekly review…

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