Belgium Figurative Arts
According to top-engineering-schools, contemporary Belgian art has been increasingly strongly influenced, and in a certain sense renewed, by the Flemish-type expressionism, represented especially by C. Permeke, and by his numerous followers: Friz van den Berghe, Gustav De Smet, R. Jespers, E. Tytgat, J. Brusselmans, while Elder I. Ensor has gradually become a completely isolated figure. Expressionism, according to the original impulses of this poetics, departed from a vehement deforming spirit, all irritations and turbid fragmentations, it subsequently attenuated its own nature, losing emphasis, freeing itself from the disintegrating rhetoric that invested some moments, even among the most energetic. Belgian expressionism came to terms with objective reality. Thus, in the years immediately preceding the last war, it already appeared tired, disheartened, and about to re-enter the ranks of a calm and discreet culture. From here, he descended insensibly into the so-called Belgian “animism”, which in some way was inspired by the Flemish realism of the 1600s: a small everyday life, an aura of intimate and crepuscular poetry. After 1945, the war ended, the young generation turned to a lively, lyrical, sensual, all-purpose realism on the pictorial ground (and also in that of sculpture, but with less evidence), to rediscover the great master laws of so-called “tradition”. The most prominent names are: L. Van Lynt and G. Bertrand, who still accuse some expressionist residue; M. Mendelson; Anna Bonnet; Jan Cox; and Ch. Pry, who passes from a surrealist painting to compositions with a religious content.
Contact with the most striking ferments of European art is now established by abstract, non-figurative and neo-plastic painters: CS De Boeck, W. Vaes, S. Bauguiet, and others. Sculpture also tries, always on a very small scale, to follow the language requirements imposed by the avant-gardists.
War damage to works of art
The most serious damage, from an artistic point of view, caused by the Second World War is reported in Courtrai, Liège, Louvain and Tournai. In Courtrai, the church of St. Michael was completely destroyed, while the church of Notre-Dame had, among other things, a part of the ambulatory and the vault of the north nave demolished. Of the large cloth markets only the perimeter walls remain; and the collections of the museum of industrial arts, which had been deposited there, were annihilated. In Liège, the cathedral, the churches of S. Giacomo, S. Niccolò, S. Pholien, the Ansembourg palace, seat of the museum of decorative arts, whose collections have suffered considerable losses, were more or less seriously damaged. archaeological museum, the museum of Walloon life, the palace of the bishops, the town hall, the Vauderhaven house, the old abbey of St. Benedict. Particularly serious are the damage done to the stained glass windows of the churches of Liège, which have been largely pulverized. In Louvain, the northern transept of the church of St. Peter has been demolished, while the church of St. Geltrude is almost completely destroyed. The damage suffered by the church of S. Michele can be repaired. The University Library has lost that part of the volumes that was housed in the tower whose interior was completely destroyed in 1940 by a fire. On this occasion, the collections of the Spoelberck museum, which had been moved there at the beginning of the war, suffered very serious damage. In Tournai, the roof, the stained glass windows and the Notre-Dame chapel were destroyed by fire in the cathedral. And very serious damages, which in some cases almost amount to the total destruction of the buildings, have suffered the church of Sainte-Brice, that of St. Quentin, the chapel of St. Vincent and the library of the bishopric. The stained glass windows of the castle church (S. Niccolò), of the churches of Saint-Piat (13th century) and part of those of the church of S. Giacomo have been demolished. The town hall with all the archives of the city was destroyed by a fire. The aerial bombardments also demolished a considerable number of old houses and damaged the Pont-des-Tours (14th century). In La Gleize, which was almost entirely destroyed by shelling, about a third of the parish church is demolished. Of the famous abbey of Averbode only the walls remain. Among the other cities of Belgium that have suffered serious damage in their artistic monuments, we remember Aloost (houses of the Béguinage), Dinant (church of Notre-Dame), Gheel (church of Sainte-Dymphne), Hasselt (church of St. Quentin), Huy (13th century bridge), Malines (Notre-Dame church), Malmédy (abbey church), Nivelles (St. Catherine’s church). The castles of Bauvaux-en-Coudray near Liège and Hingène near Antwerp were also seriously damaged.