Les XX was a group of twenty Belgian painters, designers and sculptors, formed in 1883 by the Brussels lawyer, publisher, and entrepreneur Octave Maus. For ten years 'Les Vingt' (pronounced French pronunciation: [lɛ vɛ̃]), as they called themselves, held an annual exhibition of their art; each year twenty international artists were also invited to participate in the exhibition. Artists invited over the years included: Camille Pissarro (1887, 1889, 1891), Claude Monet (1886, 1889), Georges Seurat (1887, 1889, 1891, 1892), Paul Gauguin (1889, 1891), Paul Cézanne (1890), and Vincent van Gogh (1890, 1891).
Les XX was in some ways a successor to the group L'Essor. The rejection of Ensor's 'The Oyster Eater' in 1883 by L'Essor Salon, following the earlier rejection by the Antwerp Salon, was one of the events that led to the formation of Les XX.
In 1893, the society of Les XX was transformed into "La Libre Esthétique".
It was founded on 28 October 1883 in Brussels and held annual shows there between 1884 and 1893, usually in January–March. No president or governing committee. The group was formed by 11 artists dissatisfied with the conservative policies of the organization L’Essor and the official academic Salon. L'Essor ('Soaring') was set up also in opposition to the Salon, but with a strong bureaucratic element of twenty Essorians comprising a governing committee. Octave Maus (lawyer, journalist, art critic) acted as the secretary of Les XX, which was free of stifling regulations. The extent of governing was done by a rotating committee of three which organized the exhibitions. In addition to the twenty members, twenty international invitees would also exhibit. During the exhibitions, there were also literary lectures and discussions, and performances of new classical music, organised from 1888 on by Vincent d'Indy, with from 1889 until the end in 1893 very frequent performances by the Quatuor Ysaÿe.
Octave Maus, Edmond Picard and Emile Verhaeren (Belgian poet) were the driving force of the associated review, L'Art Moderne, created in 1881. There was a close tie between art, music and literature among the Les XX artists.
Eleven founding members 
- James Ensor 1860-1949 (member until 1893)
- Théo van Rysselberghe 1862-1926 (member until 1893)
- Fernand Khnopff 1858-1921 (member until 1893)
- Alfred William Finch
- Frantz Charlet b 1862
- Paul Du Bois
- Charles Goethals c1853–85
- Darío de Regoyos (Spanish)
- Willy Schlobach b 1864
- Guillaume van Strydonck 1861–1937
- Rodolphe Wytsman 1860–1927
Nine invited members 
- Guillaume Vogels
- Achille Chainaye 1862–1915
- Jean Delvin 1853-1922
- Jef Lambeaux
- Périclès Pantazis (Greek) 1849-1884
- Frans Simons 1855–1919
- Gustave Vanaise 1854–1902
- Piet Verhaert 1852–1908
- Théodore Verstraete 1850–1907
Twelve later invited members 
- Felicien Rops 1833-1898
- Georges Lemmen 1865-1916 (member from 1888)
- George Minne 1866-1941
- Anna Boch 1848-1926 (member from 1885-1893: only female member)
- Henry van de Velde (member from 1888)
- Guillaume Charlier
- Henry De Groux
- Robert Picard b 1870
- Jan Toorop (Dutch)
- Odilon Redon (French)
- Paul Signac (French)
- Isidore Verheyden (member from 1884-1888)
The ten Annual Exhibitions of Les XX, 1884-1893 
Walter Sickert, Camille Pissarro, Berthe Morisot and Georges-Pierre Seurat exhibit, with Seurat and Signac present at the opening. The major work shown is Seurat's A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.
Camille Pissarro, Maximilien Luce, Henri-Edmond Cross, Gustave Caillebotte, Paul Cézanne, Albert Dubois-Pillet, Paul Gauguin and Georges Seurat exhibit. Included is Gauguin's masterpiece Vision After the Sermon.
At the first concert, the music was composed by César Franck, Pierre de Bréville, Ernest Chausson, Gabriel Fauré and Julien Tiersot. The music was played in part by the Quatuor Ysaÿe, as happened in the next few years. The second concert was centered around Gabriel Fauré, with additional music by d'Indy, Charles Bordes and Henri Duparc.
Three concerts were given, with the first centered around Belgian composers like Auguste Dupont, Léon Soubre, Joseph Jacob, Paul Gilson and Gustave Huberti. The second and third concert focused on the French composers, with works by Fauré, Franck, d'Indy, and Castillon in the second concert. Vincent d'Indy performed his Symphonie Cévenole in the third concert. Other composers whose work was performed were Fauré, Franck, Bréville, Bordes, Chausson, Albéric Magnard and Paul Vidal.
First exhibitions of decorative art, including posters and book illustrations by Walter Crane, Alfred William Finch's first attempts at ceramics, and three vases and a statue by Paul Gauguin. Retrospective for Vincent Van Gogh. Catalogue cover designed by George Lemmen.
Memorial concert for César Franck and a second concert with new work by Vincent d'Indy, and work by other followers of Franck, including Bordes, Duparc, Bréville, Chausson, Tiersot, Vidal,and Camille Benoît. Also played was work by Fauré and Emmanuel Chabrier. A third concert focused on Russian composers, with works by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Alexander Borodin, Nicolas de Stcherbatcheff, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Kopylov.
Three concert evenings were organised. The first concert presented the first version of Paul Gilson's La Mer, Guillaume Lekeu's Andromède and music by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Alexander Glazunov, and Franz Servais. The second showcased music by Alexis de Castillon, César Franck, Charles Bordes, Louis de Serres and Emmanuel Chabrier. The final concert included the first performance of Vincent d'Indy's Suite in D and Ernest Chausson's Concert. The other music played was composed by Gabriel Fauré, Charles Bordes, Camille Chevillard and Albéric Magnard.
The first concert was centered around work by César Franck and the first performance of Ernest Chausson's Poème de l'amour et la mer The second concert contained works by d'Indy, Castillon, Fauré, Chabrier and Bréville. The third and final concert featured the première of Guillaume Lekeu's Violin Sonata, with also performances of compositions by Charles Smulders, Paul Gilson, Dorsan van Reysschoot and Alexis de Castillon.
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- Baron, Wendy (2006). Sickert: paintings and drawings. Yale University Press. p. 586. ISBN 978-0-300-11129-3. Retrieved 22 December 2009.
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Further reading 
Primary sources 
- Octave Maus: L’Espagne des artistes (Brussels, 1887).
- Octave Maus: Souvenirs d’un Wagnériste: Le Théâtre de Bayreuth (Brussels, 1888).
- Octave Maus: Les Préludes: Impressions d’adolescence (Brussels, 1921).
- Madeleine Octave Maus: Trente années de l'lutte pour l'art, Librairie L'Oiseau bleau, Bruxelles 1926; reprinted by Éditions Lebeer Hossmann, Bruxelles 1980
Secondary sources 
- Autour de 1900: L'Art Belge (1884-1918). London: The Arts Council, 1965.
- BLOCK Jane, Les XX and Belgian Avant-Gardism 1868-1894, Studies in Fine Arts: The Avant garde, Ann Arbor: UMI Research press, 1984.
- Herbert, Robert. Georges Seurat, 1859-1891, New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1991. ISBN 9780870996184.
- Les XX, Bruxelles. Catalogue des dix expositions annuelles, Brussels: Centre international pour l'étude de XIXe siècle, 1981.
- STEVENS Mary Anne & HOOZEE Robert (eds.), Impressionism to Symbolism: The Belgian Avant-Garde 1880-1900, exhib. cat. London: Royal Academy of Arts, London 7 July - 2 October 1994.
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