Fernand Khnopff was born in Eastern Flanders in 1858, to a family of magistrates. He attended the Law School in Brussels, which he later abandoned to attend the Académie des Beaux-Arts, where he studied under Xavier Mellery.
Khnopff traveled to Paris in 1877, where he was greatly influenced by the works of Delacroix, Gustave Moreau and the Pre- Raphaelites. In 1883, he was one of the founding members of “Groupe des XX” (The Twenty). Encouraged by his friend Joséphin Péladan, Khnopff exhibited in Paris at the first Salon de la Rose and Croix in 1892. This exhibition brought him some trouble with “Groupe des XX” as some of the members held little regard for Rose and Croix. Khnopff illustrated books for Belgian poets, Georges Rodenbach and Grégoire Le Roy, using silence, solitude and secrecy in deserted towns as his themes.
During his lifetime, Khnopff became almost a cult figure, much sought after in Society circles. Despite this, he remained an exceptionally private artist. Fernand Khnopff died in 1921.