Friday, April 23, 2010

(Social) Realism: Belgium Art

Jean Stobbaerts (1838 - 1914)
Jean Stobbaerts est né à Anvers en 1838 et est décédé à Schaerbeek en 1914. il a commencé à peindre en 1855 et il a exposé pour la première fois en 1857.

Emile Claus (1849–1924)

Emile Claus (September 27, 1849–June 14, 1924) was a Belgian painter. One of his best known early works is Cock Fight in Flanders (1882). The realistic painting portrays the dignitaries of Waregem of the time, collected around a small arena with two fighting roosters. It is now property of the family Devos and hangs at the manor of the former lords of Potegem, at Waregem (Belgium). Stimulated by his friend, the author Camille Lemonnier, and influenced by the French impressionists, like Claude Monet whose works he got to know during his trips to Paris in the 1890s, Claus gradually shifted from naturalistic realism to a very personal style of impressionism called 'luminism', because of the luminous palette he used.

Léon Frédéric (1856 - 1940)
Léon Frédéric was born in 1856 in Brussels (Belgium) as the son of a wealthy jewellery salesman.
In 1874 Léon Frédéric followed art courses at the Brussels Academy des Beaux Arts. As a pupil of Jean-François Portaels, the tone of Frédéric’s work was largely formed by the Italian and Flemish art of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and the poetic painting of the Pre-Raphaelites. Two years in Italy (1876-78, Venice, Florence Naples and Rome), working with the Belgian sculptor Julien Dillens and exposed to the work of the Renaissance, gave him a sense of the profound beauty of Nature, its artistic potential of harmony, and the inherent dignity of human kind. Yet this was balanced by a personal sense of truthfulness to Nature, reinforced by the old Flemish painters who had directly studied their surroundings. Both Schools had depicted the world through clear, detailed compositions and their influence on the artist gives his work and unquestionable honesty, added to a personal, symbolist aura. Léon Frédéric died in 1940 in Schaarbeek (Brussels, Belgium).

Eugène Laermans (1864-1940)
Eugène Laermans (1864-1940) is known but not completely recognized in the history of Belgian art. A somewhat tragic figure, he was struck deaf by illness (he suffered both meningitis and typhoid) in childhood and lead a rather reclusive existence thereafter. He ceased painting in 1924 and spent the last 13 years of his life in total darkness after losing his sight in 1927. He painted scenes of social unrest and the misery of peasant life. He certainly empathised with the poor, the disabled and the outcast but he did not allow these depressing themes to drag his work into total darkness. 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.

Eugeen Van Mieghem (1875 – 1930)
Eugeen Van Mieghem; (October 1, 1875 – March 24, 1930) was a Belgian artist born in the port of Antwerp. As a boy Van Mieghem was confronted with the harsh reality of life at the waterfront. Even at primary school he showed a talent for drawing. He was introduced to the work of Vincent van Gogh, Georges Seurat, Camille Pissarro, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and others at an exhibition organised by Flemish painter and architect Henry van de Velde at the Antwerp Academy around 1892. He attended the Antwerp Academy but was sent from school because his conservative teachers disliked his subject matter and his free, spontaneous way with it. He threw his lot in with progressive political and cultural movements, and joined an anarchist group. By the early 1900s was recognized as one of the most promising young artists of the Antwerp school. He would never renounce his idealism. He became the artist of the typical harbour folk: sack porters, sack makers, emigrants, dockers, bargees, and tramps.

World (Social) Realist Art (Index of Countries)
This blog page is part of an ongoing project by artist and part-time lecturer Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin ( to explore Realist / Social Realist art from around the world. The term Realism is used in its broadest sense to include 19th century Realism and Naturalism as well as 20th century Impressionism (which after all was following in the path of Courbet and Millet). Social Realism covers art that seeks to examine the living and working conditions of ordinary people (examples include German Expressionism, American Ashcan School and the Mexican Muralists).

Click here for (Social) Realist Art Definitions, World (Social) Realism and Global Solidarity, Art and Politics, Social Realism in history and Country Index.

Suggestions for appropriate artists from around the world welcome to

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