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A detail from William Degouve de Nuncques‘s “The Mysterious Forest” (1900). De Nuncques (1867-1935) was a French-born Belgian painter who became strongly influenced by Symbolism after being introduced to the circle of Symbolist poets by his new wife, Juliette Massin (the sister-in-law of lyric poet Emile Verhaeren). For a time, he was associated with the avant garde group of Belgian painters, designers, and sculptors known as Les XX (“the twenty”), and certain of his works are thought to have had a significant influence on Surrealism through the paintings of Rene Magritte.

Le beau jardin fleuri de flammes
Qui nous semblait le double ou le miroir
Du jardin clair que nous portions dans l’âme,
S’immobilise en un gel d’or, ce soir.

Un grand silence blanc est descendu s’asseoir
Là-bas, aux horizons de marbre,
Vers où s’en vont, par défilés, les arbres
Avec leur ombre immense et bleue
Et régulière, à côté d’eux.

The beautiful garden flowering with flames
Which seemed to us the double, or the mirror
Of the luminous garden that we carried in our souls,
Becomes still in a golden frost this evening.

A great white silence has come down to settle
There
, on the marble horizons,
Towards them the trees stretch away in ranks

With their vast, blue, precise shadow beside them.

– Excerpt from Emile Verhaeren’s Les Heures claires
(translated by William Rees)

"The Mysterious Forest", by William Degouve de Nuncques (1900)
"The Mysterious Forest", by William Degouve de Nuncques (1900)

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