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.