Les XX and La Libre Esthétique

Between 1883 and 1893 the group of artists known as Les XX, led by its secretary, Octave Maus, was the most influential forum for the avant-garde in Belgium and also contributed to its international propagation. The members of Les XX stood out within the existing artistic scene thanks to their open exhibition policy, democratic operating structures, and the originality of their events. Alongside the salon, the group also presented a complementary programme of lectures on contemporary art and literature, as well as concerts of contemporary music. The group’s views were promoted in the magazine L’art moderne, founded in 1881 by Edmond Picard and Octave Maus, which not only reported on their activities on a weekly basis, but in its critiques and opinion pieces propagated the progressive goals of the group and the editors. The annual salons, originally held in the premises of the 19th-century Palace of Fine Arts (Palais des Beaux-Arts/Paleis voor Schone Kunsten) and presented from 1887 on in the Museum of Painting (Museum voor Schilderkunst/Musée de Tableaux) – both now incorporated into today’s Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium – were increasingly successful. After the dissolution of Les XX in 1893 these activities were to some extent continued by La Libre Esthétique, with increasing attention being paid to the decorative art of art nouveau and to thematic exhibitions.