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Interior Spaces in Belgian Art and Architecture (1880-1914): Domesticity, Materiality and Intimacy

Art Nouveau and the Aesthetic of the Interior in Belgian Art and Literature (1890-1920)


Outline, including interdisciplinary dimension

This PhD questions the relationship between the emergence of Art Nouveau, on the one hand, and the representation of domestic interior spaces in Belgian art and literature at the turn of the century, on the other. It is situated in the field of Interior Studies, drawing upon research in art history, literature and the history of interior design and architecture. It is multidisciplinary in its scope and comparative in its interdisciplinary analyses.

Art Nouveau was defined by a redefining and reordering of practices that were pushed to the peripheries, resulting in an innovative use of masonry, metalwork and glass and a new relationship with industry. It was on the inside that these changes were most visible with practitioners such as Victor Horta, Henry van de Velde and Paul Hankar emphasising openness and luminosity through a multitude of vistas and a series of wells of light, as well as challenging the sensuality and physicality of the home through mixing marble, precious woods, iron and glass. The impact of Art Nouveau upon the literary and artistic imagination of late 19th-centiury Belgium has not been studied.

This PhD will focus on a series of Belgian authors and artists contemporaneous with Art Nouveau developments, such as Maurice Maeterlinck, Fernand Khnopff, Georges Rodenbach, Willem Degouve de Nuncques and Léon Spilliart. By analysing their works through the prism of Art Nouveau, it will question how these artists and writers meditated on concepts such as the dialectic between inside and outside, boundaries, thresholds and liminality. It will seek to enhance not only the critical understanding of the history and reception of Art Nouveau, but also promote a deeper knowledge of these artists and writers, as well as highlighting a neglected aspect of modernity.

Key words/descriptors

art nouveau, design, art, literature

First supervisor

Dr Claire Moran - School of Arts, English and Languages

Secondary supervisor from a complementary discipline

Professor Denis Laoureux - Université Libre de Bruxelles