MAY DEN ENGELSEN (Belgian / active 1920s)

We have not been able to find dates of birth or death for May den Engelsen, who was the companion of the Belgian artist and writer Frans de Geetere. May den Engelsen lived with de Geetere on their barge the Marie-Jeanne, which they had sailed from Brussels to Paris and moored permanently by the Pont Neuf. In the 1930s, May den Engelsen channeled her artistic talent into the creation of exotic hand-painted scarves, but in the 1920s she followed Frans de Geetere in creating etchings of disturbing eroticism. In 1925 an edition of the lesbian text Les Amies by Pablo de Herlagnèz was issued with 7 etchings by de Geetere and 7 by den Engelsen. In 1927 an edition of Musset's Gamiani appeared "illustré de douze eaux-fortes pare une femme"; May den Engelsen's etchings for this were printed by Frans de Geetere. Also in 1927, an edition of Baudelaire's Pièces Condamnées was published, with 6 etchings by den Engelsen, who also supplied watercolour drawings for the deluxe copies, as she also had for Gamiani. There has been some controversy over the authorship of May den Engelsen's etchings, because they are so similar in style, tone, and composition to those of Frans de Geetere. One French bibliophile annotated his copy of Gamiani with the note, "May den Engelsen is the pseudonym of Frans de Geetere and the name of his wife." Jan Juffermans, author of a recent book on Frans de Geetere, thinks, "It is possible that the watercolors added to the deluxe edition of "Les Pièces' are by den Engelsen, and the etchings by de Geetere." My own view is that the etchings are predominantly the work of May den Engelsen, working under the influence and tuition of de Geetere, but that Frans de Geetere also worked on the plates, particularly on the faces. It is notable that the drypoint lines delineating the bodies in the May den Engelsen etchings are lighter and more flowing than de Geetere's more urgent and frenzied work, while the faces are savagely incised and deeply bitten in the manner of de Geetere. It is probably as near to the truth as we can come to regard these etchings as conceived by May den Engelsen and executed by her in collaboration with Frans de Geetere. Our copy of Les Pièces Condamnées is boldly signed on the justification page by May den Engelsen, suggesting that she herself had no qualms in claiming authorship of these pieces.

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Selected prints by MAY DEN ENGELSEN

View all available prints by MAY DEN ENGELSEN