Friday, October 31, 2014

Milena Pavlovic-Barili

Self-portrait with Archer
oil on canvas
other detail unknown

Milena Pavlovic-Barili (alt. Barilli) (1909-1945) was a Serbian painter and poet. Her Italian father Bruno Barilli was an influential composer. She studied at the Royal school of arts in Belgrade, Serbia (1922-1926) and in Munich (1926-1928). In the early 1930s she left Serbia and returned only for brief visits until the outbreak of World War II. During her stays in Spain, Rome, Paris and London, where she socialised with Jean Cocteau and Andre Breton, she was influenced by many western schools and artists, notably Giorgio de Chirico. After 1939 she stayed in New York only, where she died in a horse riding accident in 1945.

The topics of her work varied from portraits to imaginative interpretations of biblical stories. The motifs often included dream-like situations, veils, angels, statues of Venus goddess, and Harlequins. Many of her works are parts of permanent exhibitions in Rome, New York, Museum of Contemporary Art (Belgrade), and her hometown, where the house in which she was born has been converted into a museum in her honor.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pavle Jovanovic

The fencing lesson
oil on canvas
other detail unknown

Pavle "Paja" Jovanovic (1859-1957) is considered one of Serbia's greatest academic painters. He was a greatly talented, virtuous painter, nationally and internationally very successful, rich, praised and adored, although later in his life his art was criticized and dismissed by some of the 20th century art critics as outdated, dry, staged, detached from real life and a sterile example of the Academic Realism. Whatever the point of view of the scholarly art establishment, the fact is that his art was loved by the people. It has been said that, during a certain period, there was almost no Serbian home that did not have a reproduction on the wall of one of his famous pictures.

He was born in Voivodeship of Serbia and Banat of Temeschwar, Austrian Empire (today Vojvodina province, Serbia). His father was photographer and took him to Vienna in 1875 when he was 15, where he enrolled in the Academy of Fine Arts in 1877 and finished in 1880. Encouraged to visit the Balkan region during his hiatus, he studied the customs and folklore of the people, and in 1882 he was awarded the prize of the Academy and was given the czar scholarship. As early as in 1893 he was proclaimed for the member of the Serbian Royal Academy. He was given the task to make the monumental, historical compositions. After 1905 he devoted himself exclusively to painting the portraits in the style of academic realism for the rich clientele, and he became very famous. In the following period, having noticed greater interest of Europe for the Balkans, he painted mostly scenes from the life of the Albanians, Montenegrins, Herzegovinians, which brought him great reputation. In his long and prolific life, he created a large number of paintings, and although he also gained popularity as the remarkable portraitist, immortalizing many kings and queens, the politicians, the wealthy people and the artists, he is after all best known for his genre-compositions and works with the historical content.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Katarine Ivanovic

oil on canvas
size unknown
National Museum of Serbia, Serbia

Katarina Ivanovic (1817-1882), was a Serbian painter and patriot, who lived mainly in Hungary. She was born in Hungary to a middle-class family. After studying in Budapest, she worked in Belgrade from 1846 to 1847. In later years, she spent a lot of time traveling and living at different places, including Paris and Zagreb. In 1876, she was a member of the Society of Teachers of Serbia where she was the first female academic. She primarily painted still lifes and portraits. Many works reflect the emergence of nationalist sentiment in the first half of the 19th century and reveal a transitional moment in Serbian society prior to the revolutions of 1848.

As is the case with many female artists, she had difficulty finding work and receiving public recognition during her life time. However, the Serbian Learned Society (the precursor to the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences) extended honorary membership to her towards the end of her life in 1880. Following her death, the Serbian Learned Society organized a commemoration in her honor.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Alfred Verwee

Young bulls at a watering place
second half of the 19th century
oil on canvas
size unknown
private collection

Alfred Jacques Verwee (1838-1895), born in the Belgian village of Sint-Joost-ten-Nodewas, is a Belgian painter known for his depictions of animals, landscapes and seascapes. He is generally considered to be Belgium's first great animal painter.

He was originally trained to be a surveyor, but could not complete his engineering studies due to family financial difficulties. Painting had long been a hobby so, with the support of his father, a romantic painter of winter landscapes, he began to pursue that as a career. He enrolled at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts. His first exhibition was in 1857, but he didn't achieve true recognition until 1863, when he had a show at the Brussels Salon, where he was awarded a gold medal. He won another gold medal at the Paris Salon in 1864. On the advice of professional acquaintances, he settled in Paris and made contact with painters of the Barbizon school. This didn't lead to the expected financial success, however, and he returned to Brussels a year later. Then, from 1867 to 1868, he lived in London but, again, commercial success was unobtainable and he returned home broke.

He attempted to create a grand vision of the Flemish countryside. Around 1880, he became fascinated with the area surrounding Knokke, and an informal artists' colony slowly took root there. By 1887, he saw that Knokke could become a major tourist attraction, so he joined with two local businessmen to purchase a large tract of dunes and polders to subdivide for property developers. In 1888, he built a villa, the "Fleur des Dunes" and, in 1891, joined with his friend to create "Knokke-Attractions", a promotional firm. His health began to deteriorate in 1892. First, he suffered from rheumatism, then was diagnosed with throat cancer. In 1895, he travelled to Southern France, Algeria and Egypt in hopes of finding a warm, dry climate that would improve his health. A few weeks before his death, his friends brought him back to Knokke and he died at his home.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Jan Verhas

The Review of Scholars 1878 (La revue des ecoles en 1878)
other detail unknown
Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium

Jan Francois Verhas (1834-1896) was a genre painter and is considered the founder of the Academy of Dendermonde.
He was best known for his paintings of children of the Belgian bourgeoisie, in a classical style but with a natural feeling to them. genre scenes, portraits, landscapes and animals. He observed his subject sharply and has created a gentle atmosphere with pure lines and colours. His palette became clearer and his colours more and more refined.

He studied at the Academy in Antwerp, finishing with the Belgian Prix de Rome in 1860. Around 1860 he spent some time in Paris. He visited Italy in 1862 and returned to settle in Antwerp. In 1863 he achieved great success with his painting. From 1863 to 1867 he lived in Binche and from 1867 onwards in Brussels, where he specialised in portraits. After the somewhat academic beginnings to his career, he took up romantic painting and was then attracted to the theme of children. He was made a Chevalier in the Legion of Honor in 1881, and was awarded a Gold Medal in Paris in 1889.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Quentin Matsys

The Moneylender and his Wife
oil on panel
71 x 68 cm
Musee du Louvre, Paris, France

Quentin Matsys (also spelled Massys, Metsys, or Messys) (1466–c.1530), born in Leuven, Brabant (now in Belgium), is a Flemish artist who is the first important painter of the Antwerp school. He was part of a Flemish family of artists, son of a Leuven blacksmith. His father was known to have executed commissions for the new Leuven Stadhuis, one of the most ornate town halls in the Netherlands, as well as other work for the Leuven authorities, and to have been superintendent of the chapel belonging to the Leuven metalsmiths- Guild of St Eligius.

The roots of his training are unknown. According to the legend he only became a painter because his sweetheart would not marry a smith. When he settled at Antwerp at the age of twenty-five, his own style contributed importantly to reviving Flemish art along the lines of van Eyck and van der Weyden. He most likely met Holbein more than once on his way to England, and Durer is believed to have visited his house at Antwerp in 1520.

He is best known for his razor sharp wit and his skill at capturing the absurdity of society. His paintings, even after five hundred years, are bitingly clever. He infused his art with a strong sense of moralizing overtones, comedy and satire. He absorbed the Netherlandish artistic traditions and influence, reinterpreting them in original and often outrageous ways. He painted a range of subjects, excelling in humorous portraiture and social satire. He had considerable skill as a portrait painter. His portraiture exhibits highly personal and individual emotional characteristics that reflect his adherence to realism as a technique.

He died at Antwerp in c.1530. In spite of his religious devotion, several of his relatives died as a result of their faith. His sister and her husband suffered at Leuven in 1543 for what was then the capital offence of reading the Bible: he being decapitated, she allegedly buried alive in the square before the church.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tobias Verhaecht

Alpine landscape (Paisaje alpino)
oil on canvas
106 x 267 cm
Museo del Prado, Madrid, Spain

Tobias Verhaecht (1561-1631) was a Flemish painter and draughtsman, born in Antwerp, where he would spend most of his life. He spent much of his early life in Florence, where he won the favour of Francesco I, Grand Duke of Tuscany, and in Rome, where he earned a reputation as a painter of landscape frescoes. He returned to Antwerp and became a master of the Guild of St. Luke in 1590. He was a member of a local Chamber of rhetoric and wrote a comedy for it in 1620.

In 1592 the young Peter Paul Rubens came to study with him and he became the first teacher of Rubens. He married the grand-daughter of Peter Paul Rubens' stepfather and a cousin of his mother.

He mostly specialized in landscapes, often incorporating monuments he had seen in Italy in his compositions. For this purpose, numerous drawings he had made in Italy circulated in his workshop, where they were copied by his pupils. His landscapes followed the traditional style of the world landscape, which had first been developed in the first half of the 16th century by Joachim Patinir and had reached its peak with Pieter Bruegel the Elder. The landscapes depict imaginary mountains characterized by rocky peaks seen from a high viewpoint and typically including a religious or mythological scene. His work closely resembles in style the set of 12 large landscape prints published by Hieronymus Cock after designs by Pieter Bruegel the Elder. He collaborated with other painters such as Jan Brueghel the Elder. He produced several versions of the Tower of Babel.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Lucas van Valckenborch

View of Antwerp with the Frozen Schelde
oil on panel
42.5 x 63.5 cm
Stadel, Frankfurt am Main, Germany

Lucas van Valckenborch (1535-1597) is a Flemish Renaissance painter of mainly landscapes, portraits and allegorical scenes. He was born in Leuven about 16 miles of Brussels, he was enrolled in the Guild of St Luke in Mechelen in 1560 and four years later was quite a master. In 1566 he fled Mechelen as he was a supporter of the Reformation and went to Aachen, which was at the time a safer place for protestants. After a period in Liege he moved to Antwerp in 1576. Soon after that, Matthias, Holy Roman Emperor, was his patron, and travelled with him down the Danube as far as Linz where he stayed as a court painter until 1593 when he left for Frankfurt am Main.

His style was close to Pieter Brueghel the Elder, but he modified this influence in a personal manner and was not a slavish copyist. His work was rooted in the same Flemish tradition, without following the newer Mannerist movement. His landscapes generally followed the conventions of composition, with panoramic scenes from a high viewpoint. He relied, however, more on first-hand observation of nature and he made paintings of actual places, rather than the fantastic landscapes of other Flemish landscape painters. He also created some close-up representations of forest landscapes. He also painted some a series of large pictures depicting the labours of the months in the mid-1580s. He died in Frankfurt am Main and was buried there in St. Peter's Cemetery in 1597.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Theo van Rysselberghe

Elisaeth van Rysselberghe in a Straw Hat
oil on canvas
80 x 70 cm
Private Collection

Theo van Rysselberghe (1862-1926) was a Belgian neo-impressionist painter, sculptor, and designer who headed the large rank of Belgian artists that adhered to Neo-Impressionism. He studied art at the Academies in Ghent and Brussels.

In 1886 he traveled to Paris, where he met Georges Seurat and admired his painting ‘A Sunday Afternoon at the Island of Grande Jatte’. After the contacts with Neo-Impressionists in Paris he turned to Pointillism himself, becoming the main exponent of the style in Belgium. In Paris he had a meeting with Theo Van Gogh and managed thus to invite Vincent Van Gogh to the next exhibition in Brussels. That is where Van Gogh sold Vigne Rouge in Montmajour to Anna Boch, the only painting he ever sold.

During the final decade of the 19th century, he increasingly devoted his time and energies to work in the decorative arts and graphics. After the death of Georges Seurat, he gradually abandoned the Pointillist technique. Despite their friendship Paul Signac often criticized him, thinking that Theo did it only for commercial success.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fernand Toussaint

Elegant Lady with a Music Score
other detail unknown

Fernand Toussaint (1873-1956) was born in Brussels. He specialised in painting portraits of women, still lifes and city-scapes, in the Impressionist, Art nouveau, and Post-Impressionist styles. In his works there is a pervading atmosphere of tranquillity and discrete light, where silence and reserve convey respectability. It was his studies of women that remained dearest to his heart throughout his life. The attitude of his models is always elegant, with a natural regard and pose and his sitters, whether young or not-so-young, convey the qualities appreciated at the time, a certain hermetic gravity and lack of communication.

He studied art at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts, but when he was eighteen left to finish his studies in Paris. He loved and was appreciated in Paris, but he was also attracted to London and to British painters in whose works he discovered the poetic and sentimental charm of the Englishwoman. With his refined taste and sensitivities, he also excelled as a painter of flowers. He had a particular predilection for roses, often in full bloom, but more modest and even fragile flowers such as pansies and sweet peas were depicted with the same delicate attention and emotion. His entire work reflects the influence of French Impressionism, his admiration for the tradition of English portraiture, and the Belgian Romantic tradition even as his own developed and so produced typical attractive works of art.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Alfred Stevens

The Japanese Parisian (La Parisienne japonaise)
oil on canvas
105 × 150 cm
Musee d'art moderne et d'art contemporain, Liege, Belgium

Alfred Stevens (1828-1906), Belgian painter, was born in Brussels. His father, an old officer who had fought in the Napoleonic wars in the army of William I of the Netherlands, was an art collector who owned several watercolors by Eugene Delacroix, among other artists. His mother's parents ran Cafe de l'Amitie in Brussels, a meeting place for politicians, writers, and artists.

After the death of his father in 1837, he left middle school to begin study at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. Following a traditional curriculum, he drew from casts of classical sculpture for the first two years, and then drew from live models. In 1843, he went to Paris and was admitted to the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, the most important art school in Paris, where Ingres was then professor.

He was an early enthusiast of a fashionable taste called japonisme. During the 1860s, he became an immensely successful painter, known for his paintings of elegant modern women. His exhibits at the Salons in Paris and Brussels attracted favorable critical attention and buyers.

In 1863, he received the Legion of Honor (Chevalier) from the Belgian government. In 1867, he won a first-class medal at the Universal Exposition in Paris and was promoted to Officer of the Legion of Honor. His friends included Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Charles Baudelaire, Berthe Morisot, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Frederic Bazille, and Puvis de Chavannes, and he was a regular in the group that gathered at the Cafe Guerbois in Paris.

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
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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
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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
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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.