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Rops, Felicien

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 Almanack Crocodilien, his first piece of work. He also biought out two Salons Illustres, 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 Douce. 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 Jacquemait's. He subsequently returned to Brussels, where be 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 Ramiro's Catalogue of Raps' Engraved Work (Paris, Conquet, 1887), and one hundred and eighty from lithographs (Ramiro's Catalogue of Raps' 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-colour 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 colours by Bertrand. From 1880 to 1890 he devoted himself principally to illustrating books ^ Les Rimes de joie, by Theo Hannon; Le Vice supreme and Curieuse, by J. Peladan; and Les Diaboliques, by Barbey d'Aurevilly; L'Amante du Christ, by R. Darzens; and Zadig, by Voltaire; and the poems of Stephane Mallarme have frontispieces due to his fertile and powerful imagination. Before this he had illustrated the LSgendes Flamandes, by Ch. Decoster; Jeune France, by Th. Gautier; and brought out a volume of Cent Croquis pour rejouir les Honnctes 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 Honour. 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 19th 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 el son auvre papers 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 Trots 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.*)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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