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I Lock My Door Upon Myself

Neue Pinokothek, Munich

Sharon Hirsh comments on an overlooked aspect of Khnopff’s I Lock My Door :

The objects in the painting are “arranged in a rather dingy, older room, an interior ‘left behind’. This antiquated and worn aspect of Khnopff’s interior is rarely noted…but relates closely to the connection between nostalgia in the Symbolist sense (going beyond ‘homesickness’ and extending to an inspired condition of quiet retrenchment from modernity) and aged interiors. The association was established by William Morris in his famous News from Nowhere [1890], in which the hero (the writer himself) having been taken to the utopian land of Nowhere, is led through the ‘perfect’ old house. There he experiences a spiritual transportation brought on by the suspended sense of time in the aged room….                                                                                                                                         Khnopff’s similar establishment of an age-worn interior as trance-inducing space in I Lock the Door upon Myself, although not noted in current literature, was highlighted by [Emile] Verhaeren in an 1892 review of the work when it was first exhibited with Les XX:

                 And all the voluntary solitude, the abandonment of others for the 
                 recovery of oneself, rest in this figure with fixed eyes, gaunt features, 
                 immobile and tense pose, while the dilapidated walls, the dried up lilies, 
                 the faded wood and colors, and above all this escape to this place of 
                 silence and mustiness, framing the old-fashioned sorrow of things close to 
                 their ruin."

Sharon Hirsh, Symbolism and Modern Urban Society (Cambridge-New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004), 239-40.

About the Artist

Born: Termonde, 12 September 1858
Died: Brussels, 12 November 1921
Nationality: Belgian