Art of Belgium  

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Despite its size, Belgium, and the area that it occupied before it was Belgium, has a long and distinguished artistic tradition that goes back to the Middle Ages, considerable pre-dating the foundation of the country itself.


History of Belgian art

Medieval art

Mosan art is a regional style of Romanesque art from the valleys of the Meuse in present-day Wallonia, and the Rhineland, with manuscript illumination, metalwork, and enamel work from the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries. Among them the masterpiece of Renier de Huy and perhaps of the whole Mosan art Baptismal font at St Bartholomew's Church, Liège. The architecture of Roman churches of the Walloon country are also named Mosan, exemplified by the Collegiate Church of Saint Gertrude in Nivelles, and the churches of Waha and Hastière, Dinant. The Ornamental brassware is also a part of the Mosan art and among these dinandiers Hugo d'Oignies and Nicholas of Verdun.

Early Modern art

Flemish Primitives, Early Netherlandish painting
See also: Flemish Baroque painting

During the so-called Northern Renaissance, Belgium experienced an artistic boom, spawning the immensely popular Baroque Flemish school of painting. The cities of Bruges and Antwerp, some of the richest in the region, became artistic centres during the period.

The artist Peter Paul Rubens painted in Belgium between 1609-1621, working for many royal patrons from his studio in Antwerp. Rubens' house in Antwerp, the Rubenshuis, is now a museum.

Anthony van Dyck, celebrated for his painting of British court, including Charles I, was born in Antwerp.

Flemish art was not confined to the boundaries of modern Flanders and several leading artists came from or worked in areas in which langues d'oïl were spoken, from the region of modern Wallonia, e.g. Robert Campin, Rogier van der Weyden (Rogier de la Pasture) and Jacques Daret. Joachim Patinir Henri Blès are generally called mosan painters. Lambert Lombard (Liège, 1505 – 1566) was a Renaissance painter, architect and theorist for the Prince-Bishopric of Liège. Gérard de Lairesse, Bertholet Flemalle were also important painters in the Prince-Bishopric of Liège.

The Brueghel Dynasty

See also Bruegel Family

Flemish genre painting is strongly tied to the traditions of Pieter Bruegel the Elder and was a style that continued directly into the 17th century through copies and new compositions made by his sons Pieter Brueghel the Younger and Jan Brueghel the Elder. Many of these are kermis paintings and scenes of peasants partaking other outdoor enjoyments viewed from an elevated viewpoint.

Belgian art in the 19th-20th centuries

Belgian avant-garde, Belgian modern art

Belgian Impressionism

Originating in France, the Impressionist style was also adopted by Belgian artists. Anna Boch, Eugène Boch (a close friend of Vincent Van Gogh), Georges Lemmen and Théo van Rysselberghe were all influential Belgian impressionist or neo-impressionist painters.

During the 19th and 20th centuries many original romantic, expressionist and surrealist Wallon painters emerged, including Félicien Rops, Paul Delvaux, Pierre Paulus, Fernand Verhaegen, Antoine Wiertz, René Magritte... The avant-garde CoBrA movement appeared in the 1950s.

Belgian Surrealism

Belgian Surrealism, Great Zwans Exhibition

Surrealism developped in Belgium during the inter-war period. The best known Belgian surrealist, René Magritte, exhibited in 1927 for the first time.

Contemporary art

Belgian contemporary art

Belgium has a thriving contemporary art scene, with internationally renowned artists such as Jan Fabre, Wim Delvoye and the painter Luc Tuymans.


Jacques du Broeucq was a sculptor of the 16th century. Constantin Meunier was an influential Belgian sculpter of the late 19th-early 20th century. Unusually, his figures often depict industrial workers. George Grard (1901 — 1984) was a Walloon sculptor, known above all for his representations of the female, in the manner of Pierre Renoir and Aristide Maillol, modelled in clay or plaster, and cast in bronze. And in Liège also, principally Jean Del Cour, the sculptor of the Virgin in Vinâve d'Isle, Léon Mignon the sculptor of Li Tore and Louis Jéhotte of the statue of Charlemagne.


Gustave Serrurier-Bovy (Liège, 1858-Antwerp, 1910) architect and furniture designer, credited (along with Paul Hankar, Victor Horta and Henry van de Velde) with creating the Art Nouveau style, coined as a style in Paris by Bing.

Numerous houses around Belgium in the Art Nouveau style designed by Victor Horta survive (though not his masterpiece, the Maison du Peuple) and are classified as by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.


Comic art (known as bande dessinée) first became popular in Belgium in the 1920s, but achieved huge popularity internationally after the Second World War. The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé first appeared in 1929, and have been translated into fifty languages, selling a total of 200 million copies.

Notable art collections in Belgium

The most significant art collection in Belgium is the national collection at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels, however, there are more than a douzen other significant art collections around the country. Some of the most impressive museums in Belgium are The Royal Museum for Fine Arts, in Antwerp, which has an admirable collection of works by Peter Paul Rubens, the Groeningemuseum, in Bruges, with the Flemish Primitives, the Museum Aan de Stroom (MAS), which is the biggest museum in Belgium. There are also numerous smaller museums, often supported by the state, focused on individual artists, with museums devoted Magritte, Wiertz and Meunier amongst many others.

Belgium also has numerous galleries devoted to collections of non-indigenous art, including Oriental, Classical and Congolese painting, sculpture and other visual art.

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Belgian art journals

List of paintings

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Art of Belgium" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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