Flemish painting  

From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search
The central water-bound globe in the middle pane from Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights (c. 1490-1510)
The central water-bound globe in the middle pane from Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights (c. 1490-1510)

"During the past three centuries Bruges has seen its works of art exported by Spaniards, destroyed (when not sold) by Calvinist iconoclasts and French revolutionists, and carried off by picture and curiosity dealers of all nations."--Hans Memlinc: A Notice on His Life and Works (1865) by William Henry James Weale

"The valley of the Maes — home of Hubert and John Van Eyck — is noted as classic ground by the earliest historians of Flemish art; and even the grave Van Mander likens it to the vales of the Arno, the Tiber, and the Po. Maeseyck, where the Van Eycks were born, lies North of Maestricht at the edge of the barren Kempenland, touching the waste on one side, looking on the other into the gardens and orchards of the country of Liege. To the 'Eastward, by Dinant and Namur, we see the beautiful landscapes of town-crested rock and flowing river which John Van Eyck so lovingly repeated in the backgrounds of his pictures. Due North, towards Venloo and the sluggard Rhine, are the sweeps of flat country endeared to us in their melancholy by the canvases of the later Dutch."--Early Flemish Painters (1856) by Joseph A. Crowe and Giovanni Battista Cavalcaselle

The Smoker (ca. 1654 - 1662) by Joos van Craesbeeck
The Smoker (ca. 1654 - 1662) by Joos van Craesbeeck
Allegory of the World (1515) from the studio of  Joachim Patinir
Allegory of the World (1515) from the studio of Joachim Patinir
Allegory of Chastity (1475) by Hans Memling
Allegory of Chastity (1475) by Hans Memling
Adspectus Incauti Dispendium (1601), woodblock title page from the Veridicus Christianus, see Printmaking in the Low Countries
Adspectus Incauti Dispendium (1601), woodblock title page from the Veridicus Christianus, see Printmaking in the Low Countries

Related e



Flemish painting flourished from the early 15th century until the 17th century. Flanders delivered the leading painters in Northern Europe and attracted many promising young painters from neighbouring countries. These painters were invited to work at foreign courts and had a Europe-wide influence.

In the history of art, the adjectives Flemish, Dutch and Netherlandish are commonly used to designate all the artistic production in this area. For examples, Flemish Primitives is synonym for early Netherlandish painting, Franco-Flemish School for Dutch School, and it is not uncommon to see Mosan art categorized as Flemish art.


Late Gothic

Early Netherlandish painting

The so-called "Flemish Primitives" were the first to popularize the use of oil paint. Their art has its origins in the miniature painting of the late Gothic period. Chief among them were Jan van Eyck, Hans Memling, Hugo van der Goes and Rogier van der Weyden.

Economic background

During the late Middle Ages Flanders' trading towns (notably Ghent, Bruges and Ypres) made it one of the richest and most urbanised parts of Europe, weaving the wool of neighbouring lands into cloth for both domestic use and export. As a consequence, a very sophisticated culture developed, with impressive achievements in the arts and architecture, rivalling those of Northern Italy.


Dutch and Flemish Renaissance painting

From the early 16th century, the Italian Renaissance started to influence the Flemish painters. The result was very different from the typical Italian Renaissance painting. The leading artist was Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

Other famous names in this classic tradition are Jan van Eyck, Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck. This rich artistic production, often referred to as a whole as Flemish art, gradually declined during the second half of the seventeenth century.


One hallmark of the Reformation was the belief that excessive commemoration of the saints and their images had become idolatry. Efforts to end it led to the iconoclasm of 1566 (the Beeldenstorm) – the demolition of statues and paintings depicting saints. This was associated with the ensuing religious war between Catholics and Protestants, especially the Anabaptists. The Beeldenstorm started in what is now the arrondissement of Dunkirk in French Flanders, with open-air sermons hagepreken) . The first took place on the Cloostervelt near Hondschoote. The first large sermon was held near Boeschepe on July 12, 1562. These open-air sermons, mostly of Anabaptist or Mennonite signature, spread through the country. On August 10, 1566 at the end of the pilgrimage from Hondschoote to Steenvoorde, the chapel of the Sint-Laurensklooster (Monastery of Saint Lawrence) was defaced by Protestants. The iconoclasm resulted not only in the destruction of Catholic art, but also cost the lives of many priests. It next spread to Antwerp, and on August 22, to Ghent. One cathedral, eight churches, twenty-five cloisters, ten hospitals and seven chapels were attacked. From there, it further spread east and north, but in total lasted not even a month.


Flemish Baroque painting

After the Siege of Antwerp (1584-1585), the Southern Provinces of the Netherlands ("Flanders") remained under Spanish rule and were separated from the independent Dutch Republic. Although many artists fled the religious wars and moved from the Southern Netherlands to the Dutch Republic (see Dutch Golden Age painting), Flemish Baroque painting flourished, especially in the Antwerp school, during the seventeenth century under Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, and Jacob Jordaens.


Following the deaths of major artists like Rubens in 1640 and the end of the Eighty Years' War in 1648, the cultural significance of Flanders declined.

A revival of painting in this region came only after the Belgian Revolution of 1830. Painters from this period are categorized as Belgian rather than Flemish (see List of Belgian painters).

Modern Flemish painting

Although James Ensor stood apart from his contemporaries, this innovator in 19th-century art significantly influenced expressionist and surrealist painters of the 20th century.

Of the expressionist (i.e. the second) 'Group of Latem', Permeke is generally best known, and for more than four years his face was most prominent on the last banknote of 1,000 Belgian francs — as a 20 Euro bill took over its role.



Antwerp had an artistic reputation in the 17th century, based on its school of painting, which included Rubens, Van Dyck, Jordaens, the two Teniers and many others. One of the most impressive museums in Belgium , the The Royal Museum for Fine Arts, in Antwerp has an admirable collection of works by Peter Paul Rubens.


The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium is one of the most famous museums in Belgium. The Royal Museum contains over 20,000 drawings, sculptures, and paintings, which date from the early 15th century to the present. The museum has an extensive collection of Flemish painting, among them paintings by Breughel and Rogier van der Weyden, Robert Campin (the Master of Flémalle), Anthony van Dyck, and Jacob Jordaens. The museum is also proud of its "Rubens Room", which houses more than 20 paintings by the artist.


The Groeningemuseum is a municipal museum of Bruges, Belgium.

It houses a comprehensive survey of six centuries of Flemish and Belgian painting, from Jan van Eyck to Marcel Broodthaers. The museum's many highlights include its collection of "Flemish Primitive" art, works by a wide range of Renaissance and Baroque masters, as well as a selection of paintings from the 18th and 19th century neo-classical and realist periods, milestones of Belgian symbolism and modernism, masterpieces of Flemish expressionism and many items from the city's collection of post-war modern art.


Important museums in Ghent are the Museum voor Schone Kunsten (Museum of Fine Arts), with paintings by Hieronymus Bosch, Jean Fouquet, and many Flemish masters; the SMAK or Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (City Museum for Contemporary Art), with works of the 20th century, including Joseph Beuys and Panamarenko; and the Designmuseum. The Huis van Alijn (House of the Alijn family) was originally a beguinage and is now a museum for folk art.

Flemish printmaking

Printmaking in the Low Countries

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Flemish painting" 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.

Personal tools