Belgian Artists Illustrating Children' Fashions



Figure 1.--Fernand Khnopff is today seen as one of Belgium's most notable modern artists. We note a portrait of Count Roger Marie Louis van der Straeten-Ponthoz in 1895. He is listed as a minor royal in the Belgian Aristocracy. We have, however, not yet found a biography. The painting is poor in perspective and not helpful in judging his age. The child appears to be about 5 or 6 years old, ref the size of his head/body, but looks very small judging by the size of the chair and having to support himself on a foot stool. We couldn't find a date of birth, but a reader tells us that Roger was born in 1888. Since the portrait was painted in 1895 this would make him 6 or 7 years old.

We have just begun to study Belgian art. We have little information on umportant Belgian artists. There are of course the Flemish artists. Flanders was hugely important in the Renaissance--the most important of the Netherlands from the perspective of great artists. In fact, the Netherlands/Flanders was an especially creative region for art, mainly but not exclusively religious art, after Italy. Then of course came the Dutch painters such as Rembrandt, Franz Hals, Vermeer, Rubens, etc. The Flemish painters were closer to Holland in technique than to Italy, but much later. We notice far less importanbt art from Walonia. Antoon Van Dyck was born in Belgium, but he has to be considered more of a Dutch artist. In the romantic period (later 19th century), there was a school of Belgian painters who followed the traditions of France to some extent. We have few details on modern Belgian painters. the famous Belgian realist and symbolist painter, Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921) painted aportrait of Prince Leopold, Duc de Brabant, at the age of 12 years. The portrait was painted in 1913. An important modern artist is Gustave Van de Woestyne (1881-1947), a native of Flanders. It seems to us that most of the best respected artists are Flemish. We are not sure just why this was. We would be very interested in any insights that readers can offer. We suspect that the Reformation and wealth created by capitalism was the factor ascwas the Spanosh attempt to crush Protestantism and the Dutch Republic.

Flemish Artists

There are of course the Flemish artists. Flanders was hugely important in the Renaissance--the most important of the Netherlands from the perspective of great artists. In fact, the Netherlands/Flanders was an especially creative region for art, mainly but not exclusively religious art, after Italy. Then of course came the Dutch painters such as Rembrandt, Franz Hals, Vermeer, Rubens, etc. The Flemish painters were closer to Holland in technique than to Italy, but much later. It seems to us that most of the best respected artists are Flemish. We are not sure just why this was. We would be very interested in any insights that readers can offer. We suspect that the Reformation and wealth created by capitalism was the factor ascwas the Spanosh attempt to crush Protestantism and the Dutch Republic.

Antoon Van Dyck

We notice far less importanbt art from Walonia. Antoon Van Dyck was born in Belgium, but he has to be considered more of a Dutch artist. Antoon Van Dyck was born on March 21, 1599 in Antwerp, which was at the time then the main port of the Spanish Netherlands, basically modern Belgium. He was to become one of the most succesful portrait painters of the day and awarded a kighthood by England's Charles I. His brilliant portraits of the Cavalier nobility, resplendent in satin and lace stand to day as our major window into the world of Stuart England. These paintings were also to inspire the elaborate Little Lord Fauntleroy suits of the late 19th Century. Interestingly, Van Dyck's grandfather had made the family fortune by selling luxurious fabrics, velvet, satin, and lace.

Adrien Geefs (turn of the 20th century)

We note Belgian artist Adrien Geefs painting portraits at the turn of the 20th century. One was a portrait of an unidentified boy in a wide-brimmed sailor hat painted in 1898. He apparently is not a well known artist. We have been unable to find any biograpgical information about him. A French reader who has been very helpful with HBC reports, "It seems to be a beautifully painting portrait. I have, however, never heard of this artist." We rather agree. It is a wonderful porttait. Hopefully our Belgian readers will provide some information about Geefs. The boy has bangs and wears a fairly palin blue sailor suit with an enormous wide-brimmed sailor hat. It looks to be a strawhat with a very elablorate weaving pattern.

Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921)

Fernand Khnopff was born to a wealthy family that was part of the high bourgeoisie for generations. Khnopff's ancestors had lived in Flanders since the early-17th century but were of Austrian and Portuguese descent. Most male members of his family had been lawyers or judges, and young Fernand was destined for a juridical career. He became one of Belgium's most notable modern artists. We note a portrait of Count Roger van der Straeten-Ponthoz painted about 1895 (figure 1). He is listed as a minor royal in the Belgian Aristocracy. We have, however, not yet found a biography. The painting is poor in perspective and not helpful in judging his age The child appears to be about five or six, re the size of his hea/body, but looks very small judging by the size of the chair and having to support himself on a foot stool. We couldn't find a date of birth, but a reader tells us that Roger was born in 1888. Since the portrait was painted in 1895 this would make him 6 or 7 years old.Khnopff painted a portrait of Prince Leopold, Duc de Brabant, at the age of 12 years. The portrait was painted in 1913.

Nicaise de Keyser (Belgium, 1813-87)

Nicaise de Keyser was born in 1813. He studied at the Antwerp Academy of Fine Arts under Jozef Jacobs and Mattheus Ignatius van Bree. De Keyser was an extrodinarily prolific artists, creating some 350 works. He began with with religious motifs, but soom turned to Belgian history. His reputatio was made with the Battle of the Golden Spurs (1836). After his studies, he traveled widely in Europe (England, Scotland, France, and Italy to study the work of many great masters. He married the genre painter Isabella Telghuys (1840). He was elected to the National Academy of Design as an Honorary Academician (1846). The leading Belgian Romantic painter Gustave Wappers resigned as director of the Antwerp Academy, de Keyser succeeded him (1855). Several Belgian artists including Keyser achieved great fame as romantic history painters (Edouard de Bièfve, Ernest Slingeneyer and Louis Gallait). One admirr was Russian aristocrat, Prince Alexander Mikhailovich Gorchakov. He painted the Princes's sons at the height of revolutioar fervor in Europe (1848). The Belgian romantics y were especially popular in German-speaking Europe. De Keyser was awarded the Prussian order 'Pour le Mérite' (1873). The French impressionists were not as well received in Germany as in France at the time. And despite the contemprary fame of the romantic artists, their modern reputation has declined and it is the French impresionists that are seen as the great 19th century artists.

Albert Roosenboom (1845-75)

Albert Roosenboom was born in Brussels (1845). We have not been able to find much biographical information on him. Rosenbloom was a classiocal,academic artist and a well well-known member of the Flemish School. He focused on genre-scenes and figure subjects. He was a pupil of Constantin Meunier (1831-1905) the sculptor, engraver and painter of genre scenes, landscapes and realistic portraits. A art historian writes, "It was this artist's influence that led him to adhere to the philosophy of wanting painting only to express the harmony of lines, masses and colours. In common with artists working on the continent at this time, be it the Forest of Barbizon, the northern beaches or such cities as Paris or Brussels, he was consumed with the study and control of light. This prompted them to move from their studios to work ‘plein-air’." Only most of Rosenbloom's paintings were indoor scenes. We mostly see images portrayed in middle class homes ith children dressed similarly and about the same age. We wonder if the subjects were his children, probably not because of the ages. Without biograophical information have no way of dertmining this. Rosenbloom died at a very young agem only 30 years old. Even so he produced a substantial number of cavases. And given his age of death, the paintings while many are undated would have been dome in the period 1865-75, probablt mostly in the early 1870s period. Albert Roosenboom is the father of the famous Art Nouveau architect named after him Albert Roosenboom born in 1871.

Gustave Van de Woestyne (1881-1947)

An important modern artist is Gustave Van de Woestyne (1881-1947), a native of Flanders. He was a native of Ghent. Here is an interesting semi-modernist painting by the well-known Belgian painter Gustave Van de Woestyne (1881-1947). The picture in the attachment is entitled "Gaston and his Sister". They are children of about 11-14 years of age as far as we can tell from their rather stylized dress, which is all in black. The boy wears short trousers with black stockings and the girl is in a black dress. Presumably these are school clothes. From the style of the children's dress as well as the evolving style of the painter himself, I think the picture must date from the post-World War I period--I would guess in the early or middle 1920s. Van de Woestyne belonged to a group of artists and intellectuals who are generally known as "the first Latem group". His older brother Karel was a poet and prose writer. The painter spent World War I in Great Britain but returned to Belgium in 1919, and it was at this point that his style began evolving in the direction of modernism--especially expressionism and cubism. The cubist influence is notable in the architecture of the setting in which the two children are seated. Van de Woestyne was much in demand as a portrait painter.






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Created: 6:25 AM 7/28/2012
Last updated: 3:45 PM 9/7/2020