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Herman Teirlinck

Herman Teirlinck (1879-1967) was born in Brussels. He studied medicine for a year, then pursued his interests in languages and writing. Throughout his life, he was a multi-faceted artist and played a prominent role in Flemish cultural life. He worked as a civil servant and as a Dutch teacher, during the highlight of this part of career as a teacher and art and literature advisor to the Belgian court of Albert I, Leopold III and Boudewijn I. He was also a poet, essayist and playwright, founder of literary magazines, drawer, painter, furniture designer, actor and director.

During his lifetime, Teirlinck was an undisputed king of literature in Flanders. As a novelist he wrote, amongst others, the metropolitan novel, ‘The Ivory Monkey’ (Het Ivoren Aapje), the baroque epic, The Battle With the Angel and his swan song, ‘The Man in the Mirror’. Teirlinck’s writing style was initially strongly influenced by the artistic movements of symbolism and impressionism, as in his collection of poems, ‘Sun’. He was friends with various naturalistic painters and Karel van de Woestijne, the best-known symbolist poet in Flanders.

Teirlinck also became increasingly interested in theatre as the ideal literary form. He wrote many plays and experimented with narrative techniques for involving the public more in the action on stage. He also founded the ‘Nationaal Toneel in Antwerp’, which would later become the famous Studio Herman Teirlinck, an actor’s studio promoting a renewal of theatre education in the Low Countries. He set out the school’s educational programme in his ‘Dramatic Peripateticon’.

Photo Collection Letterenhuis, Antwerp