FROM THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY TO THE CONTEMPORARY AGE
In the seventeenth century the art of Catholic restoration was inspired by the forms of the Italian and French baroque (S. Carlo Borromeo in Antwerp, Trinity church in Brussels). From the second half of the century a local baroque will develop with a strong taste for lavishly decorated facades (buildings in the Grand ‘Place in Brussels). Antwerp remains the largest artistic and cultural, as well as economic, center of Flanders. PP Rubens is active here and the greatest artists of the time belong to his environment: C. de Vos, C. de Crayer, F. Snyders, J. Jordaens, J. Fyt, J. Bruegel; the engravers A. and S. Bolswert, P. Pontius, L. Vorsterman; the sculptors L. Faydherbe and F. Duquesnoy. Van Dyck, whose name will remain linked to English portraiture, emerges from the influences of the Rubensian atelier.
If in the seventeenth century Belgian art looked decisively at the Italian artistic culture then dominated by Caravaggio and Bernini, in the eighteenth century, before the neoclassical renewal, influences from Vienna acted, to whose decorative taste the architecture of Flanders adhered. In the figurative arts the most active were the artists of the Antwerp school, especially for sculpture (M. Vervoort, W. Pompe, the members of the Gillis family, particularly Jean-Baptiste, and L. Godecharle, who worked in Brussels, for the Parliament building and for the castle of Laeken). A sense of impoverishment due to the drying up of the tradition denounces painting (A. Lens, PJ Verhagen, GJ Herreyus, IB Guffin, B. Ommeganck, B. van der Bosche, J. Horemans the Elder). The neoclassical survivals and the various recoveries from traditional styles characterize the art of the first half of the nineteenth century, a period in which extensive urban planning programs were implemented involving Antwerp and its port and Brussels (1818-40). While in architecture after 1850 some artists – J. Polaert, A. Balat (1818-1895) and H. Beyaert (1823-1894) – made new recourses to the past, re-proposing sumptuous forms of the Baroque, in the field of painting and sculpture new ferments appear in opposition to the official taste of the time represented by F.-J. Navez, G. Wappers, H. Leys. The painter Ch. De Groux must be considered separately, which represents a transitional aspect between the academic and free painting of the new painters.
Among these are to be remembered L. De Winne (1821-1880), J. and A. Stevens, H. Boulenger (1837-1874), L. Dubois (who edited the magazine L’art libre created in 1871); as well as the etching artist F. Rops and the sculptor C. Meunier, who also participated in 1883 in the group of younger artists of the “Société des Vingt” (transformed in 1893 into “Libre Esthétique”) which grouped different orientations inspired by the currents of the Impressionists, pointillists and other trends in French art. J. Ensor also took part, F. Khnopff and Th. Van Rysselberghe, who at the end of the century constituted the leading personalities for the maturation of that luxuriant artistic season that was symbolism, through which Belgium placed itself among the liveliest forces of European culture. In this sense, the contributions of the sculptor G. Minne and the painter J. Toorop should not be forgotten. Sensible interpreter of this era was V. Horta, who with his architectures of the Maison Tassel (1892-93) and the Hôtel Solvay (1895-1900) laid the foundations of Art Nouveau, anticipating forms and motifs, together with the same search for synthesis between function and ornament which will then be pursued by H. van de Velde and P. Hankar, with whom rational architecture developed. In the currents of Belgian expressionism, the vigorous painting of C. Permeke and that of G. de Smet and F. van der Berghe stand out (while R. Wouters belongs to Fauvism).
According to globalsciencellc, with other vitality of ferments, expressionism returned after World War II with the international group “Cobra”, whose research moves within the sphere of the impulses of the unconscious with a fabulous figuration (Corneille, M. Wijckaert and P. Alechinsky). A place in itself in the developments of surrealism occupies the work of R. Magritte and P. Delvaux. In the currents of abstractionism we should remember V. Servrancks, R. Ubac, V. Gentils. Since the seventies, the current that has established itself with greater originality has been that of hyperrealism, carried out by Belgian artists (A. De Clerck, R. Nellens, etc.) with a particular surrealist accent. In the second half of the century. last year the city of Brussels was also enriched with new buildings, parks and architecture first on the occasion of the Universal Exhibition of 1958 (Palazzo del Centenario, Atomium), and then of the election as capital of the European Union (Palace of the European Parliament, in iron and steel, finished in 1997). As far as the more modern figurative arts are concerned, it is also necessary to recall the Belgian comics tradition. The standard bearer of national comics is undoubtedly Georges Rémi, aka Hergé, the famous creator of the acute investigator Tin Tin; Belgian origins also boast the Smurfs, Spirou and Lucky Luke.