Joseph Coosemans – In to the Zoniënwoud – 

Joseph Coosemans – In to the Zoniënwoud – 

The Sonian Forest or Sonian Wood (Dutch: Zoniënwoud, French: Forêt de Soignes) is a 4,421-hectare (10,920-acre) forest at the southeast edge of Brussels, Belgium.

The forest lies in the Flemish municipalities of Sint-Genesius-Rode, Hoeilaart, Overijse, and Tervuren, in the Brussels-Capital Region municipalities of Uccle, Watermael-Boitsfort, Auderghem, and Woluwe-Saint-Pierre, and in the Walloon towns of La Hulpe and Waterloo. Thus, it stretches out over the three Belgian Regions.

It is maintained by Flanders (56%), the Brussels-Capital Region (38%), and Wallonia (6%). There are some contiguous tracts of privately held forest and the Kapucijnenbos, the “Capuchin Wood”, which belongs to the Royal Trust.

As of 2017, the Sonian Forest has been inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the only Belgian component to the multinational inscription ‘Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe’.

The forest is part of the scattered remains of the ancient Silva Carbonaria or Charcoal Forest. The first mention of the Sonian Forest (Soniaca Silva) dates from the early Middle Ages. Then the forest south of Brussels was crossed by the river Zenne/Senne and extended as far as Hainaut, covering most of the high ground between the Zenne and the Dijle. The ninth-century vita of Saint Foillan mentions “the forest, next to the abbey of Saint Gertrude, called the Sonesian” In the sixteenth century it was still seven leagues in circumference. At the start of the 19th century the area of the wood was still about 100 square kilometres, but due to wood cutting its area diminished to its current area of 44.21 km².

Joseph Coosemans (Brussels, 19 March 1828 – Schaerbeek, 24 September 1904) was a Belgian landscape painter.

In 1846 Coosemans went to live in Tervuren, where he became city secretary. He started painting, and initially made portraits. Under the influence of Théodore Fourmois he became interested in landscape painting. From 1860 he became a passionate painter, and in 1863 he exhibited for the first time.

From 1872 he devoted himself entirely to painting, and he became part of the School of Tervuren, which was founded by his friend Hippolyte Boulenger.

He traveled to Normandy, then to Italy and back to France, where he became acquainted with the Barbizon School. From 1866 he lived in Leuven.

Coosemans regularly painted, from about 1874 in the Limburg Kempen, more specifically in Genk and Kinrooi. For this reason he is also counted among the so-called Genk School, which according to some sources he was even the master. 

In 1893 he suffered a cerebral infarction, so that he could only use his left hand. He continued to paint, but the extreme precision that characterized his work until then had disappeared. He went to live in Schaerbeek, where he died in 1904.

His work can be found in museums in Bruges, Brussels, Ixelles, Ghent, Genk, Kortrijk and Liège.