As a young artist, Léon Spilliaert was undoubtedly inspired by the diversity of his birthplace. Ostend, a city on the coast, an important port, but also a fashionable seaside resort! Ever restless, he would frequent the avenues and parks by day, and stroll along the promenade and Royal Galleries at night. He preferred to explore the city outside the busy season, when he would seek peace in the deserted streets and neighbourhoods that responded to his longing for melancholy and solitude. With a penetrating eye, and as a passionate artist, he observed places that were hives of industry and activity: the fishing port and commercial quays, the railway terminus, maritime station and lighthouse, and the back gardens and orchards.
Spilliaert captured these locations in countless views. Yet he also paid attention to small businesses, such as the oyster pits and ice-cream sellers, which are now mostly lost. With a highly original and personal touch, he painted the changes of mood and urban developments. His compositions evolved over the years: at times susceptible to a more expressive or constructed style, at others imbued with fantasy and a surrealistic atmosphere. This exhibition invites the visitor to accompany the artist on a stroll along the promenade and beach, to walk with him down the avenues and through the parks, and to discover the fishing port and commercial quays, as they were between 1904 and 1928. At the same time, an exceptional selection of vintage postcards reveals the Ostend of yesteryear: a city that was not only stylish but also exceptionally daring in terms of architecture.