The great Belgian painters

Van-Eyck,Lam-Gods,Sint-Baafskathedraal (c) LukaswebVan-Eyck,Lam-Gods,Sint-Baafskathedraal © Lukasweb For every important period in art history, there's at least one well-known Belgian artist. The Flemish Primitives contributed greatly to the arts during the Late Middle Ages, in particular the painters Rogier Van der Weyden and Jan Van Eyck. From among Jan Van Eyck’s masterpieces, the "Adoration of the Mystic Lamb" comes to mind easily, with its bright colours and precise details as well as its representation of nature and geometry. Another iconic painting is "The Virgin and Child with Canon van der Paele"(1436, Bruges, Groeninge Museum), depicting a recurring theme in Flemish paintings, namely, the representation of religious symbolism in everyday life.

The 16th century marks the presence of two great artists: Pieter Bruegel the Elder and Peter-Paul Rubens. Known as a master of details, Pieter Bruegel the Elder excels in landscapes and peasant scenery rich in symbolism and allegories. Of his many masterpieces, the "Series of the Months" will definitely ring a bell. The delightful "Winter Landscape with Skaters and Bird Trap" (1565) and the vibrant "The Fall of the Rebel Angels" (1562) are on display in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels. Another example is "Mad Meg" (1561), also known as "Dull Gret", which can be viewed in the Museum Mayer van den Bergh in Antwerp. Peter-Paul Rubens is considered one of the greatest artists of all times. His grandiose and dramatic style, with generous shapes and a warm, lively colour palette, makes him one of the founders of the Baroque style. Many of Rubens’ masterpieces can be found in the Rubens House in Antwerp.

James Ensor is, without a doubt, one of the most remarkable artists of the 19th century. Combining his avant-garde and modern views with the heritage of Bruegel and Bosch, Ensor transforms reality into a fierce criticism on the bourgeoisie by using macabre figures such as skeletons, masks and demons in his works. The monumental painting "Christ’s entry into Brussels in 1889" is a perfect example of the spirit of Ensor's work. This painting, as well as his other masterpieces, can be found in the Ensor House in Ostend. Another important Belgian artist is Félicien Rops, whose decadent style was lauded by Baudelaire, Manet and other influential artists of that time such as Gautier and Mallarmé.

Belgian Artists © Peter Paul Rubens, Self Portrait, Rubens house Antwerpen ABC / Antoon Van Dyck, Portait of a man, KMSKA @ Lukasweb / Pieter Bruegel, Dulle Griet @ Mayer van den Bergh / Ensor, De gendarmen (SM160) DK

The 20th century is marked by the presence of two renowned artists, Paul Delvaux and René Magritte. Paul Delvaux, influenced by the metaphysical art of Giorgio de Chirico, created dreamy and hypnotic atmospheres predominantly featuring female nudes. René Magritte is an artist who is often referred to as “the leader of the Belgian surrealists”. In the aftermath of the First World War, many artists were disillusioned and attempted to seek refuge from reality in alternate dimensions such as dreams, fantasy and the unconscious. Unlike other surrealists, and probably due to the influence of the Flemish figurative tradition, Magritte did not seek refuge in alternate dimensions but instead painted everyday life. As this, according to the artist, is exactly where the absurdity of human existence lies. Magritte was convinced that reality itself is an illusion and as such, each representation of reality is also an illusion (just think of the famous painting of the pipe that isn't a pipe, aptly named "The Treachery of Images"). Hence, his works display an absurd and unsettling reality, where men with bowler hats hide their faces behind giant green apples and where night scenes are illuminated by daylight. The Magritte Museum in Brussels, which opened in 2009, houses the largest collection of Magritte’s works (more than 230 items) and has received more than 1.5 million visitors over the last 5 years. Magritte is definitely one of the most well-known artists worldwide as well as a Belgian icon. This is why Brussels Airlines has chosen to be inspired by his works for the design of one of our Airbus A320 aircraft. As well as a tribute to Magritte’s universe, including recurring images in his works such as clouds and birds, the new livery is also a tribute to his philosophy, allowing passengers to observe reality from a different point of view. Even if that different view lasts just for the duration of the flight.

Discover here our new aircraft Magritte >>

Magritte Duane Michals, Magritte Tipping Hat, 1965, Gelatin silver print. RMFAB, Brussels, inv. 12229. © succession of Michals Duane / Duane Michals, Magritte Coming and Going, 1965, Gelatin silver print. RMFAB, Brussels, inv. 12228. © succession of Michals Duane / Duane Michals, Triple Exposure of Magritte with Two Profiles, 1965, Gelatin silver print. RMFAB, Brussels, inv. 12231. © succession of Michals Duane

For the use of The Empire of Lights, 1954 : © Charly HERSCOVICI, with his kind authorization – c/o SABAM-ADAGP / For the concept of the buildingwrap: © GDF SUEZFor the use of The Empire of Lights, 1954 : © Charly HERSCOVICI, with his kind authorization – c/o SABAM-ADAGP / For the concept of the buildingwrap: © GDF SUEZIn the footsteps of great Belgian artists in Belgium:

  • The Museum of Fine Arts in Tournai houses an important collection of works of Flemish primitives. To admire Ja Van Eyck's masterpieces, head to Ghent (Saint Bavo’s Cathedral), Antwerp (Museum of Fine Arts) and Bruges (Groeninge Museum).
  • Several of Bruegel's masterpieces can be found in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels, the Museum of the City of Brussels and the Museum Mayer van den Bergh in Antwerp.
  • In Antwerp you can also visit the Rubens House, where the artist lived and worked until 1640. In addition to the magnificent building and numerous works by Rubens, the collection also includes works of other famous artists such as Jacob Jordaens and Anthony Van Dyck.
  • An important collection of Ensor's works can be found in the Ensor House in Ostend and in the Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp. In Namur, you can find a museum entirely dedicated to Félicien Rops. The Paul Delvaux Museum is situated in Koksijde on the Belgian coastline.
  • The biggest collection of Magritte's work can be found in the Magritte Museum in Brussels. Other important locations can also be visited, such as his birthplace in Châtelet, near Charleroi (Rue des Gravelles 95, 6200 Châtelet), where he learned to paint and where he held his first exhibition. The Sambre River, where is mother drowned when Magritte was only 14 years old, is close to his birthplace. Following a few years in Paris, Magritte returned to Belgium with his wife Georgette to live in Jette (Rue Esseghem 135). The couple lived in this house for 24 years and many personal objects and works remain on display. The house was also the headquarters for Belgian surrealists but they also often met in the café "La fleur à papier doré" (Rue des Alexiens 53) as well. The café is still open for business today and hosts monthly poetry evenings. In 1954 Magritte moved to Schaerbeek, rue des Mimosas 97, where he lived until his death in 1967.

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