Monday, June 22, 2009

Discovering Two Artists

Living in Brussels has allowed me to discover two artists: Emile Claus and René Magritte. I had been vaguely familiar with these two artists before, but didn’t know too much about their work, or that they were Belgian.

Museum of Fine Arts, Ghent

Impressionism is one of my favorite styles of art. Between Monet, Renoir and Degas, I had completely overlooked Emile Claus, the most prominent representative of impressionism in Belgium. This was until I visited a special exhibition of Claus’s work at the Museum of Fine Arts in Ghent. The exhibit, titled “Emile Claus and Rural Life,” provided an extensive showcase of Claus’s work throughout his life and showed the artist’s stylistic progression over time. It was very interesting to see how Claus began painting realistic subjects with impressionistic backgrounds, then moved to a more dedicated impressionistic style with less of an emphasis on human subjects and finally, the absence of all human subjects in Claus’s paintings completed towards the end of his life. The exhibit was very nicely done, and I am now a big fan of Emile Claus! Here are images of two of my favorite Claus paintings; the first painting is one of Claus’s most famous works, completed earlier in his life, and the second is part of a series Claus painted during World War I while being in exile in London:

The Picnic, 1887

The Thames in London, 1916

I have also discovered René Magritte, the most prominent Belgian surrealist artist. I have never really liked or fully understood surrealism, but after visiting the brand new Musée Magritte in Brussels, the museum dedicated to the artist, I now have a new appreciation for the movement. The Musée Magritte opened only about three weeks ago to great fanfare and has already taken its place as being at the forefront of knowledge about the artist. Magritte painted highly interesting paintings, challenging the viewer’s perception of reality. Sometimes, I found it impossible to discern the meanings of certain Magritte paintings and would have needed an explanation to better understand them. Here are images of two of my favorite Magritte paintings, both among his most famous works:

The Empire of Light, 1954

The Treachery of Images, 1928-1929

Discovering these two artists is just one of the many ways I continue to be pleasantly surprised by Belgium!

1 comment:

  1. I went to a contemporary art fair in Shanghai recently, which was a real eye-opener. Chinese contemporary art has come leaps and bounds from the watery Zen landscapes to huge canvases of strange-looking beings. The prices being asked and paid were huge too.
    Oriental, if not Chinese, my print of Jean-Léon Gérôme's painting,, bought some time ago from, is as lovely as ever.