Born in Ghent, Théo van Rysselberghe received his artistic training at the Academy of Ghent under Theo Caneel, and from 1879 on, at the Academy of Brussels under the directorship of Jean-Francois Portaels. At the tender age of eighteen, he showed two portraits at the Salon of Ghent, and in 1881, exhibited for the first time at the Salon in Brussels.
van Rysselberghe was one of the co-founders of the Belgian artistic circle Les XX , a group of young radical artists united in rebellion against the outmoded academism of that time and the prevailing artistic standards. Through this group he came into contact with artists like James Ensor, Willy Finch, Fernand Khnopff, Félicien Rops, and, later, Auguste Rodin and Paul Signac.
Between 1882 and 1888, he made three trips to Morocco, which would prove to be an influence on his work. During this time, van Rysselberghe experimented with impressionist techniques, eventually moving on to Neo-Impressionism. He discovered the pointillist technique when he saw Georges Seurat’s La Grande Jatte at the eighth impressionist exhibition in Paris in 1886. Shortly thereafter, he began to adopt this mode in his own work.
His technique became more relaxed around the turn of the century, and after 1910, he abandoned pointillism completely. His brushwork became increasingly bolder and he turned to a more vivid palette. Intense contrasts and softened hues are notable in his works from this period.
In 1911, van Rysselberghe retired to the Côte d’Azur. Here he continued painting, mostly landscapes of the Mediterranean coast, portraits, and decorative murals.
Considered one of the greatest neo-impressionist painters, his most recent retrospective, Théo van Rysselberghe, was from February-September, 2006, in Brussels and later in The Hague.