Monday, October 20, 2014

Adriaan van Stalbemt

landscape with fables
oil on canvas
129 x 169 cm
Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp, Belgium

Adriaen van Stalbemt (1580-1662) was a South-Netherlandish Baroque painter and etcher, born in Antwerp. He was said to be a very good landscape painter and he decorated these landscapes paintings with various figures and animals in such an ingenious way that he became quite popular. As well as landscapes, he also painted religious, mythological and allegorical scenes. He spends most of his life there, until his death in 1662.

Most of his works are landscapes and portraits. He sometimes works with other artists such as Pieter Brueghel the Younger. His oeuvre shows great stylistic variety but, because of the small number of dated works, can only with difficulty be catalogued chronologically. Some works reveal the influence of Jan Breughel the Elder, while some are duller in colour and do not display the same meticulous brush technique. In addition to creating paintings he made etchings. Only a few of his works are dated.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Rubens, Peter Paul

The Judgment of Paris
oil on panel
size unknown
Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain

The Judgement of Paris is a story from Greek mythology, which was one of the events that led up to the Trojan War and to the foundation of Rome. The story begins at the Wedding of Peleus and Thetis to which all of the gods were invited, all except Eris, the goddess of discord. When she appeared at the festivities, she was turned away, and in her anger cast a golden apple amongst the assembled goddesses addressed "To the Fairest." Three goddesses laid claim to the apple-Aphrodite, Hera and Athena. Zeus was asked to mediate and he commanded Hermes to lead the three goddesses to Paris of Troy to decide the issue. The three goddesses appearing before the shepherd prince, each offering him gifts for favour. He chose Aphrodite, swayed by her promise to bestow upon him Helene, the most beautiful woman, for wife. The subsequent abduction of Helene led directly to the Trojan War and the fall of the city.

Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), Flemish Baroque painter, was a classically educated humanist scholar, art collector, and diplomat who was knighted by both Philip IV, King of Spain, and Charles I, King of England, who was the greatest exponent of Baroque painting's dynamism, vitality, and sensuous exuberance. He was well-known for his altarpieces, portraits, landscapes, and history paintings of mythological and allegorical subjects. His work is a fusion of the traditions of Flemish realism with the classical tendencies of the Italian Renaissance and is one of the most methodically assimilative and most prodigiously productive of Western artists.

Rubens's influence in 17th-century Flanders was overwhelming, and it was spread elsewhere in Europe by his journeys abroad and by pictures exported from his workshop. He is a central figure in the history of Western art and artists at almost every period have responded to the force of his genius. Perhaps most noticeably in France, where Watteau, Delacroix, and Renoir were among his greatest admirers.

He died from gout on May 30, 1640 and was interred in Saint Jacob's church, Antwerp. He had eight children, three with Isabella and five with Helene (in 1630, four years after the death of his first wife, the 53-year-old painter married 16-year-old Helene Fourment); his youngest child was born eight months after his death. His fondness of painting full-figured women gave rise to the terms 'Rubensian' or 'Rubenesque' for plus-sized women.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Van Dyck, Anthony

Princess Henrietta Maria of France, Queen consort of England
oil on canvas
109.0 x 86.2 cm
Royal Collection (art collection of the British Royal Family)

This is the first portrait of Henrietta Maria painted by Antoon van Dyck. Henrietta Maria of France (1609-1669) was queen consort of England, Scotland, and Ireland as the wife of King Charles I. She was mother of his two immediate successors, Charles II and James II. Her Catholic religion made her unpopular in England, and also prohibited her from being crowned in an Anglican service; therefore she never had a coronation. She began to immerse herself in national affairs as civil war loomed on the horizon, and was compelled to seek refuge in France in 1644, following the birth of her youngest daughter, Henrietta, during the height of the First English Civil War. The execution of King Charles in 1649 left her impoverished. She settled in Paris, and then returned to England after the Restoration of her eldest son, Charles, to the throne. In 1665, she moved back to Paris, where she died four years later. The North American Province of Maryland was named in her honour, and the name was carried over into the current US state of Maryland.

Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641) was a Flemish Baroque painter known as "the Mozart of painting". His portraits, like the music of Mozart, are precise, expertly observed, and idealized variations on established forms. He was an extremely famous European court painter throughout the 17th century, matched only by Rubens.

He was born in Antwerp as a son of a rich silk merchant, and his precocious artistic talent was already obvious at age 11, when he was apprenticed to a Flemish historical painter. He was admitted to the Antwerp guild of painters before his 19th birthday. He spent the next two years as a member of the workshop of the Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens in Antwerp. His work during this period is in the lush, exuberant style of Rubens, and several paintings attributed to Rubens have since been ascribed to Van Dyck.
He settled in London from Antwerp, in 1632, as chief court painter to King Charles I, who knighted him shortly after his arrival. He painted most of the English aristocracy of the time. He contributed heavily to both English portraiture and Italian Renaissance Art, and was unmatched in rendering his sitters' psychological world through expression and pose. He is also considered to be one of the most brilliant colorists in the history of art.

Van Dyck set a new style for Flemish art and founded the English school of painting. His style became lighter and more luminous, with thinner paint and more sparkling highlights in gold and silver occasionally showing a certain hastiness or superficiality as he hurried to satisfy his flood of commissions. He died in London on December 9, 1641 and was buried in the St. Paul Cathedral.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Francois Roffiaen

The Banks of the Konigsee (Upper Bavaria)
oil on cardboard
other detail unknown

Francois Roffiaen (1820-1898) was a Belgian painter, engraver, etcher of landscapes and mountain scenery in the Realist and Romantic style. He specialised in painting Alpine landscapes.

He followed his artistic studies at the Academy of Brussels, 1839-1842. Then, he taught drawing at the college of Dinant. Since the beginning of the year 1840, he participated in big group exhibitions. The years 1850?1860 were those of his greatest success, including numerous sales in Belgium, in Great Britain and in the United States, having works acquired by the Shah of Persia, by the Belgian and British royal houses.

His painting, constructed according to indefinitely repeated formulae and each year becoming a little more tired, finished however by wearying the art chroniclers. Critics of the press have often reproached him for the bias he shows in his painting. But he ignored them, and he continued to accumulate landscapes of Belgium, Scotland, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, using the same formula, making do with the same sky, the same trees, the same rocks, unconcerned by the latitudes, according to the taste of a special public, who buy all of that and pay him handsomely. However, on several occasions a critic attempted to emphasize the qualities of his art, both in its extreme delicacy and fineesse and in its almost photographic detail.

Some months after his death, the local authorities gave the name of Francois Roffiaen to a street in Ixelles. In 1907, an article was dedicated to him in the Biographie nationale, edited by the Royal Academy of Belgium. However, in the first half of the twentieth century his name was no longer cited except by chance. Notwithstanding that, since the years 1960-70, there has been a renewal of interest and the work of him is on the way to becoming rehabilitated.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Joseph Quinaux

Un gue sur la Lesse a Walzin (A ford on the River Lesse Walzin)
year unknown
oil on wood panel
54 × 69 cm
Musee de l'Herrmitage, Saint-Petersbourg, Russia

Joseph Quinaux (1822-1895) was a Belgian painter, draughtsman and teacher, born in the Belgian city of Namur. He was Trained at the Academy of Namur. He was one of the most prominent representatives of the Romantic-Realistic landscape painting in Belgium. He stayed in the early 1840s in the Forest of Fountainebleau, and returned in 1857 back to Barbizon (France).

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Magritte, Rene

The Lovers
oil on canvas
54 x 73.4 cm
Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA

Magritte’s mother was a suicidal woman, which led her husband, Magritte’s father, to lock her up in her room. One day in 1912, she escaped, and was found down the nearby River Sambre dead, having drowned herself. According to legend, 13 year old Magritte was there when they retrieved the body from the river. As she was pulled from the water, her dress covered her face. This later became a theme in many of Magritte’s paintings in the 1920’s, portraying people with cloth covering their faces. But Magritte disliked this explanation. Magritte described his paintings as "visible images which conceal nothing; they evoke mystery and, indeed, when one sees one of my pictures, one asks oneself this simple question, 'What does that mean?'. It does not mean anything, because mystery means nothing either, it is unknowable."
"If the dream is a translation of waking life, waking life is also a translation of the dream." (Magritte)

"Everything leads us to believe that there exists a state of mind where life and death, the real and the imaginary, the past and future, the communicable and the incommunicable, high and low, no longer seem contradictory" (Andre Breton, The Surrealist Manifesto, 1924)

Rene Francois Ghislain Magritte (1898-1967) was a Belgian surrealist artist. He became well known for a number of witty and thought-provoking images that fell under the umbrella of surrealism. His work challenges observers' preconditioned perceptions of reality. His Belgian brand of Surrealism deals in clear visions with unclear meanings. Unlike the fantastic dreamscapes of Paris Surrealists such as Salvador Dali, his settings are strangely normal, and his protagonists are bourgeois gentlemen in ties and bowler hats. Yet he specialized in permanent irresolution, in mysteries without a key.

He was born on the 21st November, 1898 in Belgium. His father was a tailor and a merchant. As his business did not go well the family had to move often. Rene lost his mother early and tragically, she committed suicide by drowning herself in the River when Rene was only 14 years old. This was not her first attempt; she had made many over a number of years, driving her husband Leopold to lock her into her bedroom. One day she escaped, and was missing for days. She was later discovered a mile or so down the nearby river, dead.

After studying in the Royal Academy of Arts in Brussels, he became a wallpaper designer and commercial artist. His early painting works were executed under the influence of the Cubism and Futurism, then he was inspired by the Purists and Fernand Leger. The acquaintance with Giorgio de Chirico and Dadaistic poetry constituted an important artistic turning-point for Magritte. In 1927-30 Magritte lived in France, where he participated in the activities of the Surrealists, establishing a close friendship in particular with Max Ernst, Dali, Andre Breton and especially with Paul Eluard. In Paris, Magritte's system of conceptual painting was formed, it remained almost unchanged until the end of his life. His painting manner, intentionally dry and academic, "polished in the technical sense" with precise and clean draughtsmanship demonstrated a paradoxical ability to depict trustworthy an unreal, unthinkable reality. He was fond of philosophy and literature. Many of his paintings reflect his impressions of literature works, illusions and philosophical metaphors. Magritte died of pancreatic cancer on August 15, 1967 in his own bed in Brussels at the age of 69, and was interred in Schaerbeek Cemetery, Evere, Brussels. Popular interest in Magritte's work rose considerably in the 1960s, and his imagery has influenced pop, minimalist and conceptual art.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Joseph van Lerius

Portrait of Henriette Mayer van den Bergh
oil on canvas
75 × 64 cm
Museum Mayer van den Bergh, Antwerp, Belgium

Museum Mayer van den Bergh exhibits the collection once belonged to art collector Fritz Mayer van den Bergh (1858-1901). The major works are from the Gothic and Renaissance period in the Netherlands and Belgium, including paintings by Pieter Brueghel the Elder. After the premature death of her son Fritz in 1901, his mother Henriette Mayer van den Bergh (this portrait) thought it as her duty to realize Fritz’s dream of having his own museum. She built a neo-gothic house in the banking district of Antwerp between 1901 and 1904, as a museum for her son's expansive art collection. It became the first museum in the world to be built around a single collection.

Joseph (Jozef) Henri Francois Van Lerius (1823-1876) was a Belgian painter in the Romantic-Historical style. He painted mythological and Biblical scenes as well as portraits and genre pictures. Much of his work is didactic in nature. In 1852 Queen Victoria bought his painting "Premier Ne" (First Born), depicting a young couple with a baby. It is still on display at Windsor Castle. Perhaps his best-known work is "Lady Godiva".

In 1838, he was already an apprentice draftsman at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. He took a study trip through Germany and Italy in 1852. Two years later, he was appointed to a position as a painting instructor at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp. In 1861, he was awarded the Knight's Cross of the Order of Leopold and in 1869 became a Knight in the Order of St.Michael. In 1875, he was diagnosed with meningitis. The following year, he died in Mechelen, where he had gone for treatment.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Evert Larock

The Cinder clearance
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium
detail unknown

Everard Larock (1865-1901) was a realistic Belgian painter. Most of his paintings are about the daily life of lower-class. He was an early advocate of plein air painting and was influenced by the bright color scheme of impressionism, but usually chose subjects that were more naturalistic in character.

He studied at the evening classes of Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp while he worked in studios of a decorative artist during the day. During his military duty in 1884, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was exempted from further service. He began taking day classes at the Academy, spending his evenings working and studying. Despite his illness, he managed to exhibit widely throughout Northern and Central Europe and began to attract positive critical attention. When he became too ill to work he entered a sanitarium, but stayed for only a short time, preferring to die in his hometown.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Eugene Laermans

The rag pickers 
Museum Dhondt-Dhaenens, Deurle, Belgie
other detail unknown

Eugene Jules Joseph Laermans (1864-1940) was a Belgian painter. At the age of eleven, he contracted meningitis and typhoid, which left him deaf and nearly mute. This concentrated his attention on his sense of sight, and led to his decision to become a painter. He enrolled at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts in 1887.

He painted scenes of social unrest and the misery of peasant life. He certainly empathised with the poor, the disabled and the outcast. His paintings feature the vast, flat landscapes of Belgium, dotted with villages populated by little white cottages, surrounded or bisected by reflective rivers and streams, wind-beaten trees, dramatic but gloomy skys, and the beautiful colours of autumn. He depicted criminals, the blind, the naked and the poor, but looking at his works it is easy to think that the biggest adversity that his people face is nature. The weather, and the immense landscape in which these people trudge and toil. His paintings are certainly melancholy but their large scale, his eye for dramatic composition and the rich colours he employed lift his works.

In 1922, he became a member of the Royal Academy of Science, Letters and Fine Arts of Belgium. In 1924, his eyesight began to fail as well and he stopped painting, declaring "I am no longer Laermans". In 1927, the year his mother died, King Albert made him a baron. He lost his sight completely by 1927. He became totally blind, faded into reclusive obscurity and died thirteen years later.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Khnopff, Fernand

I Lock my Door upon Myself
oil on canvas
72 x 140 cm
Neue Pinakothek, Bayerische Staatsgemaldesammlungen, Munich, Germany

Fernand Edmond Jean Marie Khnopff (1858-1921) was a Belgian symbolist painter, sculptor, photographer and writer. He was one of the foremost Symbolist artists and active supporters of avant-garde art in late 19th-century Belgium. Already during his lifetime he was almost a cult figure, creating a personality for himself as a dandy much sought after in Society circles.

He was born to a wealthy family that was part of the high bourgeoisie for generations. Most male members of his family had been lawyers or judges, and he was destined for a juridical career. To please his parents, he went to law school at the Free University of Brussels when he was 18 years old. During this period, he developed a passion for literature, discovering the works of Baudelaire, Flaubert, etc.... He left University due to a lack of interest in his law studies, turning to literature and art. In 1876, he enrolled at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts. At the Academie, his most famous fellow student was James Ensor, whom he disliked from the start.

He began his career when Realism was the most advanced style in Belgium, and he always maintained a commitment to verisimilitude in the details of his works. However, Realism was not enough for him: he insisted that art must suggest the essential mystery behind the visible facts and facades. He took certain themes from a friend of Symbolist poetry: silence, solitude, secretiveness and deserted towns. His sister Marguerite, born in 1864, became his adulated oracle and favourite model. He was given the Order of Leopold in recognition of his services to painting but despite this he was an exceptionally private artist.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Henri Evenpoel

Sunday Stroll in the Bois de Boulogne
oil on canvas
190 × 300 cm
Musee des beaux-arts de Liege, France

Henri-Jacques-Edouard Evenepoel (1872-1899) was a Belgian artist whose most important works are associated with Fauvism. His canvases were largely portraits and interiors, and he also became an accomplished printmaker.

He first studied art in Brussels at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts between 1889 and 1890, and entered Paris's Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1892. He was admitted to the studio of Gustave Moreau in 1893, where he befriended Henri Matisse. Family and friends were his preferred subjects; his full-length portraits, often against a neutral background, show the influence of Edouard Manet and James Abbott McNeill Whistler. His Parisian scenes were influenced by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Jean-Louis Forain.

In 1897 he bought a Pocket Kodak, calling it a “real gem.” Fascinated by the mechanism, he learned to do his own developing and printing. He occasionally used his photographs as studies for his paintings, but he usually took pictures to experiment with novel images, record the contents of his studio, or capture images of his family. Of his vacation photographs of 1897, he wrote: “I savor them with the slightly sad joy of reflecting that all this good time is past.”

Though his early scenes had a somber palette, his paintings while in Algeria were very different in style, anticipating the bold colours of Fauvism. He died of typhus in Paris at the age of 27.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Valerius De Saedeleer

other detail unknown

Valerius Victor Emiel Marie de Saedeleer (1867-1941) was a Belgian expressionist painter, one of the main figures in the school of Flemish expressionism. His style, the mixture of the Flemish expressionism with the tradition of Early Netherlandish painting, and especially the art of Pieter Bruegel the Elder, influenced some younger artists.

He was born in Aalst, Belgium as the son of a merchant. Refusing to work in his father's business, he left his parents and went to Ghent to study at the Academy of Fine Arts. He then started working as an independent artist in Brussels, and still searching for his own style.

He moved to Sint-Martens-Latem for a few months in 1893, then lived for two years in Ghent and three years in Lissewege, before moving back to Sint-Martens-Latem in 1898. There he formed part of the first artist colony of the village. Many other painters later joined the socalled first and second School of Latem. Such painters moved away from the luminism of Emile Claus and his followers, and turned towards a more sombre, sober palet, with influences of late Medieval Flemish painting. From 1904-1905 on, he started working in an expressionistic symbolism, a purified style, with mostly empty, silent, motionless landscapes, often in winter. He started getting attention in the media and, by 1907, he was the most successful of the painters from Latem. In 1908, he moved to Tiegem, which reflected itself in some changes in his landscapes, and his success remained. In 1914 he moved to Wales to flee the First World War and he remained there until 1920. In 1933, he became an honorary citizen of the city of Aalst.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Leon De Smet

A Girl by the Table
oil on canvas
116 x 81 cm
Private collection
Fair use

Leon de Smet (1881-1966) was born in the Belgian city of Ghent as the son of a photographer, playwright and ornamental painter. He enrolled in the Academy for the Fine Arts in Ghent in 1893, and he was a brilliant student. He was a follower of Emile Claus and the Luminist school, a group heavily influenced by the Impressionists.

By 1909 he was representing Belgium at the Venice Biennale and the following year his work was included in an international exhibition in Brussels along with that of Pierre Bonnard and James Ensor. His work was being favourably compared with that of Georges-Pierre Seurat and van Rysselberghe, a similarity in brushwork and tonality being clearly evident.

In 1914 at the beginning of the First World War, he moved to  London, settled in Tavistock Square, exhibiting at the Royal Academy and moving in an artistic and literary circle including George Bernard Shaw, William Orpen, Frank Brangwyn, John Galsworthy and Joseph Conrad. He rapidly acquired an international reputation. He gradually emerged as a welcome society figure. In spite of this success, however, from 1925 he focused entirely on Belgium. Beginning in 1932, he was especially active in the group Vlaanderen, which tried to support Belgian contemporary art. His work remained widely represented especially in the Ghent art scene. The Second World War years hardly affected him. After the war, the Ghent Museum for the Fine Arts organized a noteworthy personal exhibition in 1953. He was appointed commander of the Order of Leopold II in 1966.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

David Emile Joseph de Noter

In the Kitchen
oil on canvas
73 x 98 cm
location unknown

David Emile Joseph de Noter (1825-1875) was born into a family of artists in Brussels. His father was a painter of city scenes and interiors, and his uncle was a sculptor, painter and designer. He painted still lifes with flowers, vegetables, seafood, dead game and poultry and vegetables but also kitchen and salon interiors and genre scenes almost always with a strong focus on a still-life element within the scene. He painted in a meticulous realist style, but with a distinctly romantic atmosphere creation. During the 1860’s, he lived and worked in Paris. At some point during his later years, he travelled to and lived in Algiers where he died in Saint Eugene Bologhine. In Algiers, he also painted faces there, such as the Kasbah of Algiers.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Henri de Braekeleer

A Flemish Kitchen Garden
oil on canvas
47.6 x 58.4 cm
Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK
for more artworks:

Henri de Braekeleer (1840-1888), Belgian painter, was born and died in Antwerp. He favoured humble subjects matter and he depicted with great realism in a restricted albeit bright palette. His paintings are part of the Belgian school that developed a new realism in genre paintings and landscapes, announcing somehow the new development of The Hague school.

He entered the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp in 1854. Although he remained a student there until 1861, he publicly exhibited his paintings in 1858 for the first time at age 18. In 1863, he went to Germany and, in 1864, to the Netherlands, studying works by 16th- and 17th-century painters in both countries. The influence of Johannes Vermeer was especially important.

In 1872, he received a gold medal at the Salon in Brussels for The Geographer and The Lesson and, in 1873, a gold medal at the International Exhibition in Vienna. However, apparently because of depression, he stopped painting between 1879 and 1881. When he started to work again, he used a shorter and more visible brushstroke, perhaps as a result of the influence of the Impressionists. Vincent van Gogh mentioned him in letters to his brother Theo several times, referring to him as an artist he liked as well as one afflicted by mental illness. He died shortly after in misery.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Emile Claus

Flaxweeding in Flanders (Vlaswieden in Vlaanderen)
oil on canvas
128 × 198 cm
Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp, Belgium

Emile Claus (1848-1924), Belgian painter, is recognized as the leader of the Luminist movement in Belgium. As such, he was at the forefront of the group Vie et Lumiere along with James Ensor. He was to have one of the longest standing influences on Modern Belgian art, reaching younger generations of artists.

He was born in Sint-Eloois-Vijve, a village in West-Flanders, at the banks of the river Lys. He was the twelfth child in a family of thirteen. His father was a grocer-publican and for some time town councillor. He graduated from the Academy of Waregem (the neighbouring town) with a gold medal. His father sent him as a baker’s apprentice to Lille (France). He learned French there but the job of a baker clearly did not appeal to him. He also worked for some time with the Belgian Railways and as a representative in the flax trade. He wrote a letter for help to the famous composer and musician, Peter Benoit, who was an occasional visitor of the family. Encouraged by Peter Benoit, from 1869 to 1874, he trained at the Antwerp Academy of Fine Arts. During his training, he attracted the attention of and found favour with the local upper middle class. After graduating, he stayed to live in Antwerp. In his years in Antwerp, he mainly painted portraits and realistic, anecdotal genre pieces.

Artistically, he soon prospered. He travelled around the world to attend exhibitions of his work. As a celebrity, he became a friend of the family with amongst others the French sculptor Auguste Rodin and the naturalist Emile Zola, and with the Belgian novelists and poets. The major turning point in his carrier occurred after 1889, when he rented a studio in Paris. He was introduced to Claude Monet, who inspired his conversion towards a new art of spontaneity, light and pure colours. Under the influence of Monet, he gradually shifted from naturalistic realism to a very personal style of impressionism that has been characterized as luminism. In 1904, he started the artist group Vie et Lumiere ('Life and Light').

In 1883 he moved to cottage Zonneschijn ('Sunshine') in Astene, near Deinze (East-Flanders, Belgium), where he stayed until his death. From his living room, he enjoyed a beautiful view across the river Lys. The space and light of the country house clearly inspired him. He spent the years of the First World War in exile in London where he found a house and workshop at the banks of the river Thames. He returned in 1918. The day before his death, he had painted a pastel of a bouquet of flowers, sent to him by Queen Elisabeth of Belgium. He is buried in his own garden in Astene and a street is named after him in Brussels. His last words were: “Bloemen, bloemen, bloemen …” (‘Flowers, flowers, flowers’).

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Ensor, James

The Intrigue
oil on canvas
90 x 150 cm
Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp, Belgium
for more artworks:

Intrigue depicts the harassment of the James Ensor's sister Mariette and her Chinese fiance by the villagers of Ostend, Belgium. Although this painting was inspired by a specific personal experience, it also makes a profound statement about the ugliness of prejudice and discrimination.

Mariette's romance with Tan Hee Tseu, an art dealer who lived in Berlin, caused a great scandal in the rural town. When Tan appeared in Ostend before the wedding, the villagers plagued the couple with racist gossip.

In Ensor's painting, the figures are placed close to the picture plane as if they are on a stage, dramatically confronting the viewer. Mariette, the blue-haired, green-capped woman, and Tan, the man in the black top hat, are in the center of the crowd. Mariette holds Tan's arm protectively, while he seems to withdraw into the collar of his coat. They are surrounded by grotesque gossipers who, safe in their carnival masks, have come to taunt them. A heckler in the foreground carries a Chinese doll and points an accusing finger at Tan.

Although in some instances masks can be cheerful and festive, in Ensor's work they represent the dark side of human nature. Here they seem to reflect the true personalities of the people who wear them, showing them to be cruel, "ugly" people. However, Mariette and Tan, like their tormentors, are also in masquerade. The mask serves two functions: it can protect the vulnerable and also hide the identity of the vicious.

Rather than depicting things as they actually appear, Ensor creates a sense of fantasy and caricature by exaggerating colors, lines and forms. He contrasts bright colors - reds, blues, greens - with whites, browns, and blacks. This combination of colors creates an intense, vibrant effect. Ensor's nervous brushstrokes move wildly in various directions, adding to the tense mood of the painting. The thickly painted sky is turbulent and full of doom, adding to the uneasy feeling of the crowd.  (excerpts from web)


James Sidney Edouard, Baron Ensor (1860-1949) was a Flemish-Belgian painter, an important influence on expressionism and surrealism who lived in Ostend, Belgian coast city, for almost his entire life. He is considered to be an innovator in 19th century art. Although he stood apart from other artists of his time, he significantly influenced such 20th century artists as Paul Klee, Emil Nolde, Alfred Kubin, and other expressionist and surrealist painters of the 20th century.

No single label adequately describes the visionary work produced by Ensor between 1880 and 1900, his most productive period. His pictures from that time have both Symbolist and Realist aspects, and in spite of his dismissal of the Impressionists as ‘superficial daubers’ he was profoundly concerned with the effects of light. His imagery and technical procedures anticipated the coloristic brilliance and violent impact of Fauvism and German Expressionism and the psychological fantasies of Surrealism.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Evariste Carpentier

Love is in the air
oil on canvas
73 x 92.5 cm
location unknown
for more artworks:

Evariste Carpentier (1845-1922) was a Belgian painter of genre scenes and animated landscapes. He liked to paint farm animals and, more generally, the charms of rural life.

He was born in a modest family of farmers in Kuurne. His strong artistic aptitude manifested itself at an early age while on the farm. He became a pupil at the Academy of Fine Arts of Courtrai in 1861. In 1864 he was admitted to the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp. He proved to be gifted in painting from life, and achieved the prize of excellence in 1865, which allowed him to obtain a private studio in the Academy of Antwerp the following year.

In 1876, an old knee injury, caused in his youth, developed serious complications and threatened to require amputation. The pain prevented him from working. He left Antwerp to return to his hometown, where his sister provided him with care and treatment. Three years later, on the advice of his doctor, he left his hometown for the south of France to help speed his convalescence. Stopping on the way in Paris, he painted a series of studio genre pieces, which brought him immediate success, selling them to the wealthy Parisian middle-class.  In 1881, he was able to discard his crutches and establish his own studio near Montmartre.
In 1884 he moved to St-Pierre-le-Nemours near the Forest of Fontainebleau, and painted from morning till night in the open air. Returning to Belgium in 1886, he became key to the establishment of Impressionism in the country of his birth. By 1894 he emerged as one of the leaders of the Impressionist movement in Belgium.
In 1904 he was appointed director of the Fine Arts Academyin Liege.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Louis Buisseret

Dans l’atelier du peintre (In the artist's studio)
oil on canvas
100 x 80 cm
Musees royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Belgium

Louis Buisseret (1888-1956), born in the Belgian province of Hainault, was a Belgian painter, draftsman and engraver. At the age of 16, he enrolled at the Art Academy of Bergen where he studied engraving. In 1908, he started studying at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels. In 1910, as a student he won the second prize in the Belgian Prix de Rome competition in painting and in 1911 he won first prize in the Prix de Rome competition in the category of printmaking. His time in Rome was of particular importance to his development, and the influence of Italian Renaissance painting, particularly the frescoes he saw in Florence and Rome, was to be reflected in his art for much of his later career.

Active mainly as a painter of portraits, nudes and still life subjects, he received several honours and prizes during his long career before his death at the age of sixty-eight.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Hippolyte Boulenger

Josaphat Valley at Schaarbeek
oil on canvas
107.5 x 134.0 cm
Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp, Belgium

Hippolyte Emmanuel Boulenger (1837-1874), born to French parents, was a Belgian landscape painter influenced by the French Barbizon school, known as "the Belgian Corot" .

In 1853, after he became an orphan, he went to Brussels to work at a design atelier. In the evening, he studied at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts.

He went to Tervuren in 1864, and called round him a group of likeminded painters gathered there, the School van Tervuren, a Belgian version of the Barbizon school, of which he became the leading artist. By 1866, he was famous in Belgian art circles. It was his suggestion that led to the creation of the Societe Libre des Beaux-Arts, an art circle of young Belgian artists, with honorary members from abroad like Corot and Millet, but also Honore Daumier, Gustave Courbet and Willem Maris.

By 1869, he began to suffer from epilepsy. Coupled with alcohol abuse, this led to an early death in a hotel in Brussels.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Delvaux, Paul

The Tunnel
oil on canvas
150 x 240 cm
Fondation Paul Delvau, Belgium

Paul Delvaux (1897-1994) was a Belgian painter and printmaker. He was, with Rene Magritte, one of the major exponents of Surrealism in Belgium, although he never officially joined. He was the son of a lawyer. The young Delvaux took music lessons, studied Greek and Latin, and absorbed the fiction of Jules Verne and the poetry of Homer. All of his work was to be influenced by these readings, starting with his earliest drawings showing mythological scenes.

He began his training in 1920 at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, albeit in the architecture department owing to his parents' disapproval of his ambition to be a painter. Nevertheless, he pursued his goal, attending painting classes.
In his earliest works, he was strongly influenced by the Flemish Expressionism of painters. In the mid-1930s, however, he turned decisively to Surrealism, not as an orthodox member of the movement but to a large extent under the influence of Giorgio De Chirico. His paintings are primarily nostalgic scenes in which women often appear in the nude. The painstakingly detailed nature of his works manages to convey an unreality, a world of his own imagination. His combination of photographic realism with unusual juxtapositions and a sense of mystery, places him in the same surrealistic category as Rene Magritte and Giorgio de Chirico. He is considered an important contributor to modern art of the mid 20th century.

Delvaux acknowledged his influences, saying of de Chirico, "with him I realized what was possible, the climate that had to be developed, the climate of silent streets with shadows of people who can't be seen, I've never asked myself if it's surrealist or not." He did not consider himself "a Surrealist in the scholastic sense of the word." "Delvaux ... always maintained an intimate and privileged relationship to his childhood, which is the underlying motivation for his work and always manages to surface there. This 'childhood,' existing within him, led him to the poetic dimension in art."

Monday, September 29, 2014

Carl Bloch

The Annunciation
ca before 1890
oil on copper plate
41 x 23 in.
King's Oratory within the Frederiksborg Castle, Copenhagen, Denmark

In 1865, Carl Bloch was commissioned to create twenty-three paintings depicting the life of Jesus Christ. The works, rendered in oil on copper, took fourteen years to complete. They were installed in the King's Oratory within the Frederiksborg Castle in Copenhagen, and still reside there today. The Annunciation was the first painting completed for the oratory. As the Christian saga unfolds, the angel Gabriel proclaims to the Virgin Mary that she has been chosen to be the mother of the Savior of the World.

Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834-1890), born in Copenhagen, Denmark, as the son of a merchant was a celebrated Danish painter. His parents wanted him to enter a respectable profession - an officer in the Navy. However, this was not what he wanted. His only interest was drawing and painting, and he was consumed by the idea of becoming an artist.

In 1855, he joined the Royal Danish Academy of Art. His early work featured rural scenes from everyday life. In 1859 he received a travel grant. He used this grant to go to Holland, France and Italy. From 1859 to 1866, he lived in Italy, and this period was important for the development of his historical style. In this period, his love and admiration for Rembrandt developed. During his stay in Rome, he met his beloved wife and married her in 1868. They had a very happy and prosperous life together until her early death in 1886. The sorrow over losing his wife weighed heavily on him, and being left alone with their eight children after her death was very difficult for him.

His first great success was the exhibition of his "Prometheus Unbound" in Copenhagen in 1865. He was then commissioned to produce 23 paintings for the Chapel at Frederiksborg Palace. These were all scenes from the life of Christ which have become very popular as illustrations. The originals, painted between 1865 and 1879, are still at Frederiksborg Palace. When he died of cancer, it was reported that "Denmark has lost the artist that indisputably was the greatest among the living."

Now, more than a hundred years after his death, young artists from all over the world, attempting to illustrate the life and death of Christ, make pilgrimage to Frederiksborg Castle to study the great Master. Today, some have recognized him as perhaps the greatest artist ever to interpret the life and death of Christ.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Wilhelm Marstrand

Italian Osteria Scene, Girl welcoming a Person entering
oil on canvas
other detail unknown

Nicolai Wilhelm Marstrand (1810-1873), born in Copenhagen, Denmark, is one of the most renowned artists belonging to the Golden Age of Danish Painting. He ranked among Denmark's great painters of all time, to some authorities perhaps as the very greatest. Certainly, he was vastly productive and mastered a remarkable variety of genres - his disinterest for landscape art being a notable exception.

He was enchanted with Italy, where he stayed for more than four years in total, and with the ways of life of the Italian people. He portrayed a colorful, joyous, and romantic view of them, infused with a newfound ideal of beauty. He returned to Denmark at the end of 1841, and in Denmark he strove to bring back that which he learned in Italy, and allow it to develop in his home culture.

He became a member of the art Academy in 1843, and became a professor in 1848. He was named Director of the art Academy during two periods: the first period from 1853-1857, the second from 1863 until his death. In 1867 he was awarded the rank of State Councillor. In 1871 he was struck with a brain hemorrhage and partially paralysed, losing much of his work capacity.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Johan Lundbye

A Danish Coast. View from Kitnas by the Roskilde Fjord
oil on canvas
188.5 × 255.5 cm
Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, Denmark

Johan Thomas Lundbye  (1818-1848), born in Kalundborg, Denmark, sickly as a child, was a promising young painter and graphic artist, known for his animal and landscape paintings who died at the age of 29.

He studied privately under an animal painter, and at the age of 14 he became a student of the Royal Danish Academy of Art in Copenhagen, where he finished in 1842. He received a travel grant from the Academy in 1845, which was renewed a year later. In June, 1845 he left Denmark and traveled through Germany, over the Rhine to Switzerland to France, and then to Italy. He returned to Denmark in July 1846 after a year and half. Then, he announced that he was going to live in the country for a year, and took a little farm near Helsingor. However, the First War of Schleswig, known in Denmark as the Three Years' War, broke out, and in the spring of 1848 he enlisted in the army like many other young artists. Eight days later on 26 April 1848, he died. There is some question as to whether he died from an accidental shot, or whether the chronically depressed artist took his own life.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Christen Kobke

A View from Dosseringen near the Sortedam Lake Looking towards the Suburb Norrebro outside Copenhagen
oil on canvas
53 x 71.5 cm
Statens Museum for Kunst, National Gallery of Denmark, Copenhagen

On the brink of the Sortedam Lake near the painter's home just outside Copenhagen, he has depicted a quiet summer’s evening shortly before sunset. The painting is infused with a highly Romantic atmosphere, but the study for the painting shows that he actually observed the motif in the middle of the day. He has, then, radically changed the light of the scene. He made numerous additions to the motif, such as the woman on the bridge and the boat on the water.

Christen Schiellerup Kobke (1810-48), born in Copenhagen, Denmark, was a pre-eminent painter in his country and arguably one of the greatest talents of Denmark’s Golden Age. He was little appreciated in his lifetime, but he began to win recognition at the end of the 19th century and is now considered the outstanding Danish painter of his period.

With the exception of one journey to Italy, he spent almost his entire life in and around the Citadel in Copenhagen, where he found the principal themes of his art. He concentrated on everyday scenes in and around Copenhagen and on portraits of family and friends, displaying great sensitivity in his treatment of colour and light and a warm intimacy of characterization. His landscape paintings are usually based on plein air studies.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Peder Kroyer

Hip Hip Hurray
oil on canvas
134.5 x 165.5 cm
Gothenburg Museum of Art, Sweden

Peder Severin Kroyer (1851-1909),  born in Stavanger, Norway, later moved to Copenhagen, known as P. S. Kroyer, was a Danish painter. He was one of the best known and beloved, and undeniably the most colorful of the Skagen Painters, a community of Danish and Nordic artists who lived, gathered or worked in Skagen, Denmark, especially during the final decades of the 19th century. He was the unofficial leader of the group.

He began his art education at nine years of age under private tutelage, and in 1870 at the age of 19, he completed his studies at the Royal Danish Academy of Art. In 1873 he was awarded the gold medal and a scholarship.

Between 1877-1881, he travelled extensively in Europe, meeting artists, studying art, and developing his skills and outlook. He stayed in Paris and came under the influence of contemporary impressionists - Claude Monet, Alfred Sisley, Edgar Degas, Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Edouard Manet.

In 1882 returning to Denmark he spent summer season at Skagen, then a remote fishing village at the northern tip of Denmark, painting themes from the local life, as well as depictions of the other artistic and influential people who lived in and visited Skagen during those times.

He continued travelling extensively throughout his life, constantly drawing inspiration from foreign artists and cultures. His eyesight failed him gradually over the last ten years of his life until he was totally blind. He painted almost to the end of his life in spite of all these health obstacles. He painted some of his last masterpieces while half blind. He died at 58 years of age after several years of declining health from advanced syphilis.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Viggo Johansen

Kitchen interior. The artist's wife arranging flowers
oil on canvas
64.4 x 84.7 cm
Skagens Museum, Skagen, Denmark

Viggo Johansen (1851-1935), born in Copenhagen, was a Danish painter and active member of the group of Skagen Painters who met every summer in the north of Jutland. He was one of Denmark's most prominent painters in the 1890s. Specializing particularly in genre scenes and in scenes of mealtimes, he made a successful career in the art world.

He studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts from 1868 to 1875, specializing in figure painting, at that time figure painting was regarded as the finest, but did not pass the graduation examination. He first came to Skagen in the summer of 1875 at the request of Michael Ancher (they knew each other from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts).

From 1885, he exhibited in Paris; there he was inspired by Claude Monet, particularly in his use of colour. After his return from Paris, his paintings took on lighter tones; he had noted the absence of black in the works of the French artists and considered his own earlier works too dark by comparison. Nevertheless, he is remembered particularly for the subdued lighting effects of his interiors and his scenes of domestic family life, but he also painted landscapes, still lifes and portraits.

From 1888 to 1906, he taught at the Artists Academy's School for Women. He then became a professor there until 1920 and, for a time, was one of its directors. His works today are exhibited in many museums around the world, but it is particularly well known in Scandinavia and in the country of his birth, Denmark.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Vilhelm Hammershoi

Interior with young woman seen from behind
oil on canvas
60.5 x 50.5 cm
Randers Kunstmuseum, Denmark

Vilhelm Hammershoi, in English Vilhelm Hammershoi (1864-1916), was a Danish painter. He is known for his poetic, low-key paintings. He painted portraits, landscapes and many room interiors which frequently contained a single figure that was seated or standing. He married Ida in 1891 and she provided the inspiration for many of his future works and is often the lone figure seen in his paintings. They lived a quiet life, apart from Ida's reported fiery temperament, and had no children.

Hammershoi worked mainly in his native city Copenhagen. Hammershoi and his wife also often travelled together throughout Europe. They journeyed to the surrounding countryside and locations beyond, where he painted rolling hills, stands of trees, farm houses, and other landscapes. Later in his life he lived in the old merchant house in Copenhagen with his wife, and he painted the interior of this house more than sixty times. He died of throat cancer in Copenhagen at the age of 52.

He is now one of the best-known artists in Scandinavia, and comprehensive retrospectives of his work have been organized by the Musee d'Orsay in Paris and the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Wilhelm Bendz

The Waagepetersen Family
oil on canvas
99.5 x 88.5 cm
Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, Denmark

The head of the family shown in the painting is the wine merchant Christian Waagepetersen. He was one of the men who clearly marked that the middle classes had become the dominant group within Danish society after the aristocracy's centuries of dominance. He was keenly interested in art and music. He held regular musical events at his home, where the leading Danish composers and musicians took part along with some of the artists.

Wilhelm Ferdinand Bendz (1804-1832), born in Odense on the island of Funen, Denmark, is a painter mainly known for genre works and portraits. He often portrayed his artist colleagues and their daily lives.

He was one of the most talented artists in the successful generation of painters, but died early and has therefore left a relatively small oeuvre. Today he is mainly remembered for his many technically accomplished portraits,. His technical virtuosity is particularly visible in his depictions of the play of light cast from an obscured source and the resulting shadows. He died from a lung infection.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Anna Ancher

evening prayer
oil on canvas
68 x 60 cm
location unknown

Anna Ancher (1859-1935), born in Skagen, Denmark, was considered one of Denmark's great pictorial artists. She along with her contemporaries oversaw a shift in the artistic landscape of Denmark. She enjoyed a unique artistic career, not least considering that she was a woman in an age where it was uncommon for women to get an artistic education. They were not even granted access to the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts.

Her personal and professional life almost went hand in hand because of her marriage to a fellow painter Michael Ancher whom she met in Skagen. She became part of the Skagen Painters, a group who were dedicated to capturing the natural beauty and life of this fishing town. She painted the lives of the people of Skagen. She was indeed one of the most accomplished of the painters and left behind a lasting legacy for more reasons than one. She went against conventions and social constrains when she pursued her artistic career even after her marriage, no easy task taking in to account that she lived in a period when women, especially those who were married stayed at home and took care of household chores. She was the face of the women in a group that was pre-dominantly male.

Although an accomplished painter, she is more remembered as the chronicler of the womenfolk of Skagen. While most of the male artists tended to draw the outdoor beauty of Skagen, mostly fishermen in various chores, she set most of her paintings within four walls, that is to paint a woman in the house doing small chores like knitting or reading.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Michael Ancher

Children and young girls picking flowers in a field north of Skagen
oil on canvas
79 x 63 cm
Skagens Museum, Skagen, Denmark

Michael Peter Ancher (1849-1927), Danish impressionist artist, was a master artist best known for his portrayals of Skagen's heroic fishermen and for his dramatic paintings of the fishermen's work at sea. His paintings are classics and he is probably one of Denmark's most popular artists. In his large figure paintings he combines the classic compositional principles of historic paintings with a fascinating realism.

In 1880, he married his fellow Skagen painter Anna Brondum. Michael Ancher along with his wife Anna contributed greatly to the art of Denmark. His works faithfully depict the lives of the fisher folk of Skagen. He went about with great dedication to his art and combined the old-school thoughts with those of the emerging perspectives. In the early 20th century, he took an active part in the founding of Skagens Museum, but he died in the year before its official opening.