A common theme among the PRB appears in Fernand Khnopff's
Posthumous Portrait of Marguerite Landuyt, which represents
the loss of death and its emotional imprint on the
living. Khnopff's portrait however differs from the
PRB in its depiction of a known, recently deceased
woman. Whereas the PRB tended to portray death by way
of metaphor and romanticized narratives, Khnopff makes
use of a contemporary and personally significant
subject. Posthumous Portrait does not make use of
symbolic objects or location, but through Khnopff's
stylistic choices takes on deeper meaning.
Caught off guard, the young woman pauses and stands
perfectly still. Slightly turning her head, the girl
intently stares at an unseen person or object in the
distance. Her stiff posture indicates her tremendous
unease. As if trying to maintain composure, the
fragile subject timidly raises an arm to her chest.
Dressed in white, the fair-skinned young woman
practically fades into the washed out background.
Khnopff's use of soft, fleeting coloration suggests
the temporality of the figure's existence. Her
appearance resembles that of ghostly apparition
materialized in front of mourning loved one: Khnopff.
The highly personal subject of Khnopff's
Posthumous Portrait marks a shift from the PRB's idea
of the composition as emotionally stimulating. In this
work, Khnopff draws from his own memory, not external
resources. Posthumous Portrait illustrates the
artist's memory of an individual. Thus, Khnopff does
not distance himself from his subject. Visually
communicating a specific moment of death and loss,
Khnopff transmits his feeling directly onto the
1. How does Khnopff's Posthumous Portrait differ from
PRB representations of death?
2. What is the significance behind Khnopff's ambiguous
use of scenery, lighting and coloration?
3. How does Khnopff's color palette differ from the
Last modified 4 December 2006