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.