In Brown Eyes and a Blue Flower, Fernand Khnopff tweaks some of his pictorial elements yet maintains his typically enigmatic execution. In this mysterious drawing, a woman's head appears to emerging from a shadowy background as a pale blue flower in a shallow vase rests in the foreground. The large, round frame engulfs the drawing, which restricts the view to the lower portion of the woman's face and makes the accompanying details difficult to identify. The haziness of the pencil creates a dreamlike atmosphere that furthers the mysterious composition.

In most of Khnopff's paintings and drawings, he executes mysterious combinations of women, animals and decorative objectives in a highly skilled and precise manner. In most of his non-portrait works, though, he depicts similar looking women either based upon a model or an imagined ideal. In works such as Woman with a Black Curtain, Who Shall Deliver Me, the women have strong chins, slender noses, bow lips and large, very pale, blue eyes. In Brown Eyes and a Blue Flower, however, he seems to be calling to the viewer's attention that this woman does not, indeed, have those alarmingly pale eyes. Her dark brown eyes are alert and staring directly at the viewer; her lips are set in a straight line as though she is forcefully determined. The pale blue flower in the foreground stands in contrast to the other still life he uses repeatedly: the Head of Hypnos with pale blue feathers (I Lock the door Upon Myself, A Blue Wing, and Head of Hypnos.) The title of this drawing describe the most identifiable pictorial elements, which are deviations from his usual depictions.


1. Khnopff's signature is on the frame of the painting. What is the significance of this? How are words incorporated in other frames in his oeuvre?

2. Khnopff was also a sculptor, architect, and photographer. How does this change the analysis of this drawing? Does it?

3. How does this woman compare to the subject in I Lock the door Upon Myself? Do they have the same sense of otherworldliness that his grotesque depictions of women (Caresses, Sleeping Medusa) do?

4. Could one argue that Khnopff's extremely studied approach to painting the odd is an example of the triumph of artifice over the natural? How does artifice play into Khnopff's paintings as well as in his approach to painting?

Victorian Web Visual Arts Fernand Khnopff Drawings by Khnopff

Last modified 6 December 2006