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.