George Minne (1866, Ghent - 1941, Sint-Martens-Latem) is considered one of the leading Symbolist sculptors of Europe. His deeply personal works bridge Rodin's fin-de-siècle symbolism and influenced the bold expressionism of early twentieth-century artists such as Kokoschka, Barlach and Lehmbruck.
Minne's father was an architect, but his school days left unpleasant memories. The strict discipline led him to withdraw into himself early on, which reinforced his introverted nature. In 1879 he left primary school and enrolled at the Academy of Fine Arts of Ghent, where he switched to painting lessons four years later. Although his father initially encouraged him to take architecture lessons, it soon became clear that his calling lay elsewhere.
In 1886 Minne underwent a complete change in his work. He left the Academy, settled in Ghent and developed an expressive language that deviated from the academic tradition. This change towards a more internalized art and direct expression was undoubtedly related to his friendship with symbolist French-speaking Ghent poets such as Maurice Maeterlinck, both inspired by the mysticism of the early Middle Ages.
In 1890 Minne exhibited at Les XX with, among other things, "Mother mourns her dead child." His slender, almost primitive-looking plaster statues provoked intense criticism from the conservative press. He increasingly sought contact with the Brussels art scene and joined Les XX in 1892. During this period he mainly made graphic work and illustrated poetry collections and theater pieces by friends.
In 1892 Minne married Joséphine Destanberg, but the relationship with his father deteriorated, and the family lived in poverty. To support himself, Minne made religious statues in plaster and modeled pediments for fairground carousels. After a period of three years, he began sculpting again in his Symbolist style, with religiously inspired works such as "The Praying Nun" and "John the Baptist."
In 1896 Minne settled permanently in Brussels, where his exceptionally creative period began. There he met architect Henry Van de Velde, sculptor Constantin Meunier and art critic Julius Meier-Graefe. With "The Fountain of the Kneeling Ones" he established his name internationally and received praise for the emotional power of his images with clean lines and expressive emotion.
At the Vienna Secession of 1900, Minne was one of the main artists and his influence on artists such as Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele was undeniable. The success enabled him to build a house in Sint-Martens-Latem, where he welcomed the first Latem group of artists, the mystical Symbolists.
In 1941, George Minne died in Sint-Martens-Latem, and although his later work may not have radiated the same tension as before 1900, he remains an influential figure in the symbolist art of his time.
Mother mourns her child