Category: history

Jan Michiel Ruyten – Belgian port city – 1848

Jan Michiel Ruyten or Jan Ruyten (9 April 1813, in Antwerp – 12 November 1881, in Antwerp) was a Belgian Romantic painter, draughtsman and engraver known for his genre paintings, cityscapes, landscapes with figures and history paintings. He was influenced by Dutch Romantic painting.

Jan Michiel Ruyten was born in Antwerp where he received his first artistic training from Ignatius Josephus van Regemorter. Initially he painted landscapes and genre paintings and then developed towards city views. From a young age he started contributing his works to the salons in Ghent, Brussels and Antwerp.

Ruyten became in 1840 a member of the Antwerp Academy. The marine and city painter Hendrik Frans Schaefels worked as an assistant of Ruyten between 1842 and 1844.

Ruyten left Belgium for the Netherlands in the 1840s. It is known that he contributed a painting to the exhibition of The Hague in 1845. He is presumed to have lived and worked in The Hague until 1870. In the Netherlands he got to know the work of Andreas Schelfhout and this artist’s pupil Wijnand Nuijen, which had a great influence on his choice of subjects. Ruyten exhibited in his native Belgium as well as in Vienna and London and was awarded numerous prizes.

Ruyten’s pupils included Florent Crabeels, Alexander Josephus Thomas Wittevronghel and Laurent Herman Redig.

Hendrik Frans Schaefels – The sinking of the Vengeur – 

Vengeur (“Avenger”) was a first-rate 118-gun ship of the line of the French Navy, of the Océan type, designed by Jacques-Noël Sané. She was the first ship in French service to sport 18-pounder long guns on her third deck, instead of the lighter 12-pounder long guns used before for this role.

Laid down as Peuple in covered basin no.3 at Brest Dockyard in October 1793, she was renamed as Vengeur after the Bataille du 13 prairial an 2 in honour of the Vengeur du Peuple by a decree passed by the National Convention.

She was launched on 1 October 1803 and completed in February 1804. She was again renamed in March 1805, becoming Impérial.

She took part in the Battle of San Domingo on 6 February 1806. Severely battered by several British ships, most of her artillery out of order and without means to manoeuver, she was beached by her captain to prevent her sinking and capture. It took several days to evacuate her crew, of whom many were wounded; after a few days, British ships closed in and sent boats to capture those remained aboard and set fire to the wreck.

Hendrik Frans Schaefels or Henri François Schaefels, also known as Rik Schaefels and Henri François Schaefels (Antwerp, 2 December 1827 – Antwerp, 9 June 1904) was a Belgian Romantic painter, draughtsman and engraver known for his seascapes, cityscapes, genre paintings, landscapes with figures and history paintings. He worked in the Romantic style popular in Belgium in the mid nineteenth century and was highly esteemed in Europe for his representations of historic naval battles.

Belgium was in the grip of Romantic art at the time Schaefels started out on his artistic career. Belgian Romantic painters such as Gustaar Wappers (1803-1874), Nicaise de Keyser (1813- 1887), Edouard Hamman (1819-1888) and Gallait Louis (1810-1887) gained international success with their history paintings. These usually depicted glorious or famous events in the history of what became the state of Belgium, which had only recently been established as an independent country in 1830. Such historic themes were the favorite subjects of artists working in the years from 1830 to 1850.

Hendrik Frans Schaefels combined in his work this tradition of history painting and marine art. He excelled in his dramatic portrayals of naval battles and other historical events that took place at sea such as the Battle of Trafalgar, episodes from the wars between England and the Dutch Republic. His large compositions, with sizes varying from 2 to 9 meters long, often showed a pseudo-Baroque design. Schaefels painted both compositions depicting an entire naval battle as well as more anecdotal episodes depicting the action on the deck of a single warship such as in the Death of Nelson. For his naval battles he relied on historical literature and printed materials.

Schaefels also painted more recent and peaceful marine events such as the Queen Victoria on board the Royal Yacht, which depicts the 1843 visit of Ostend by Queen Victoria with her husband Prince Albert.

Petrus van Schendel – Self Portrait – 1869

Petrus Van Schendel (1806-1870) was a Dutch-Belgian genre painter in the Romantic style who specialized in nighttime scenes, lit by lamps or candles. This led to him being known as “Monsieur Chandelle”.

On the advice of a family friend, who was a retired army officer, his father sent him to study at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. He studied there from 1822 to 1828 with the history painter Mattheus Ignatius van Bree, and received a gold medal for “Perspective” upon graduating.

He made a name as a portrait painter and moved frequently, living in Breda (1828-29), Amsterdam (1830-32), Rotterdam (1832-38), and The Hague (1838-45). He was a regular participant in the Exhibition of Living Masters and the various “Triennial Salons” of Antwerp, Brussels and Ghent. In 1834, he was named a member of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Amsterdam.

In 1845, he settled permanently in Brussels. His studio there was divided into a well-lighted space where he actually painted, and a darkened space where his models posed. He won several medals at expositions in Paris and London during the late 1840s. Some of his works were bought by King Leopold I. He also published course books on perspective and facial expression.

He painted Biblical scenes and landscapes, lit by the moon, as well as his genre works and traditional portraits. Many of his paintings were also done as ink wash drawings and made into woodcuts. In 1869, he created a few experimental paintings lit by electric arc lamps.

In addition to his art, he was interested in the mechanics of steam engines and, in 1841, patented a device for improving the blades on steamships. He also devised suggestions for improving the lateral stability of railroad cars and reclaiming the moorlands in De Kempen.

He was married three times and had fifteen children; thirteen by his first wife, Elisabeth, who died in 1850.

Willem Benson – The Nativity –

Willem Benson (1521 – 1574), was a Flemish Renaissance painter.

He was born in Bruges as the son of Ambrosius Benson, and was the brother of Jan, and the father of Ambrosius II. His works are confused with Adriaen Isenbrant, and he was sometimes called Guillaume or Guillermo. He died in Middelburg.


Geer Van Velde (Dutch, 1898-1977), Composition, c.1966. Oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm.

Gerardus “Geer” van Velde (5 April 1898, Lisse – 5 March 1977, Cachan, Paris) was a Dutch painter.

Van Velde was the second son of Willem Adriaan van Velde, then owner of a small case of inland waterway transport fuelwood and charcoal on the Rhine and Hendrika Catharina von der Voorst, illegitimate daughter of an earl. Catharina and her four children (Neeltje, Bram, Geer, and Jacoba) were abandoned by Willem Adriaan after the bankruptcy of his business, leaving them in misery. Moving a lot, they eventually moved to The Hague in 1903. In 1910, at the age of twelve, Geer became an apprentice designer in the firm with Schaijk & Eduard H. Kramers. Kramers encouraged Geer to develop his interest in painting, as he did with his brother Bram van Velde.


St. Benoit Labre, 1915 – Otto van Rees (1884–1957)

Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, T.O.S.F., (French: Benoît-Joseph Labre) (25 March 1748 – 16 April 1783), was a French mendicant, Franciscan tertiary, and Catholic saint.

Otto van Rees (1884-1957) artist, Dutch citizen, born in Freiburg-im-Breisgau, Germany, died in Utrecht, Holland, mainly living in France and Switzerland during his career as an artist.

Son of a family of academics, Otto van Rees started his career in Paris, where he moved in October 1904. The year before he had finished high school. By intermediation of Picasso, whom Van Rees met in the café Le Lapin Agile, Van Rees put up at an atelier in the Bateau Lavoir.  His wife and fellow artist, Adya Dutilh (1876-1959) joint him in December 1904. The winter of 1904/1905 at the Académie Carrière he became friends with George Braque. The Bateau Lavoir was a lively place where his contact with other artists, painters, Picasso, Lhote, Gris, Van Dongen, as well as writers Max Jacob, Blaise Cendrars, Apollinaire deepened.

Paris would become their winter residence on and off for over 30 years, living at first in different places in Montmartre, later moving to Montparnasse. The summers were spent at Fleury-en-Bière, a little town next to Barbizon. Kees van Dongen spent the summer of 1905 there, together with Otto and Adya van Rees in the farmhouse Van Rees rented. They painted together in the fields around the village.  Picasso was probably also a visitor as well as other artists: Otto Freundlich, Marc Chagall and Blaise Cendrars to mention a few. Some of his fellow artists became dear friends over many years: Severini, Segal, Freundlich, Mondriaan, Arp, Zadkine.

After a stay in Italy his first grand exhibition of 48 paintings was held in 1908 in Rotterdam at the Oldenzeel gallery, gallery now famous for its exhibitions (1892-1904) of works by Vincent van Gogh. The Dutch public was not used to modernistic paintings and the critics were not positive. Van Rees focused on Paris. In Paris, during the early years, Otto van Rees exhibited his work at the gallery of Berthe Weil; Clovis Sagot  and Léonce Rosenberg and at the yearly Salon des Artistes Indépendants. He also had part in the Sonderbund, Cöln, Germany in 1912 and the famous exhibition of Der Sturm in 1913.

In 1912-1916 the art of Van Rees went through changes. His neo-impressionistic experiments to capture sunlight, depth and perspective in color were of the past. He was now concentrating on volume and form. His work evolved from physic cubism, as the art critic Guillaume Apollinaire described it, to analytic cubism. One of the first collectors of his art then was Arthur Jerome Eddy, an American art collector from Chicago.

During the first world war Van Rees changed his French summer residence for Ascona, the Swiss little town at the Lake Maggiore. The artistic and anarchistic colony, where artists, writers, anarchists and philosophers took refuge was inspiring. With Arp, who later spent Christmastime 1915 at the Van Rees, Otto and Adya held the famous exposition of November 1915 at the gallery Tanner in Zürich. This exposition is now seen as the beginning of Dada in Zürich. The art dealer Henri Kahnweiler named Van Rees as an artist that brought the collage technique from Paris to Zürich as the start of Dada Art. Ascona would keep Van Rees’ preference. In 1928 Otto van Rees constructed a house in Losone on the hills near Ascona. The house had a ground plan of a circle and a square, announcing the famous 1930 collective art show of Cercle et Carré.

After the tragic death of their oldest daughter, killed in a train accident in France, Otto van Rees spent more and more time in Holland. He moved there in 1934. In Holland the young painters called him their Nestor, who taught them the profound values on art. Many public buildings in Holland: churches, railway station, courthouse, ministry, theatres were embellished by his mural paintings.


Three Legends of Saint Nicholas

Gheeraert David, c. 1500-1520

Gerard David (c. 1460 – 13 August 1523) was an Early Netherlandish painter and manuscript illuminator known for his brilliant use of color. Only a bare outline of his life survives, although some facts are known. He may have been the Meester gheraet van brugghe who became a master of the Antwerp guild in 1515. He was very successful in his lifetime and probably ran two workshops, in Antwerp and Bruges. Like many painters of his period, his reputation diminished in the 17th century until he was rediscovered in the 19th century.

He was born in Oudewater, now located in the province of Utrecht. His year of birth is approximated as c. 1460 on the basis that he looks to be around 50 years in the 1509 self-portrait found in his Virgin among the Virgins. He spent his mature career in Bruges, where he was a member of the painters’ guild. Upon the death of Hans Memling in 1494, David became Bruges’ leading painter. He moved to Bruges in 1483, presumably from Haarlem, where he had formed his early style under Albert van Oudewater, and joined the Guild of Saint Luke at Bruges in 1484. He became dean of the guild in 1501, and in 1496 married Cornelia Cnoop, daughter of the dean of the goldsmiths’ guild. David was one of the town’s leading citizens.

Ambrosius Benson served his apprenticeship with David, but they came into dispute around 1519 over a number of paintings and drawings Benson had collected from other artists. Because of a large debt owed to him by Benson, David had refused to return the material. Benson pursued the matter legally and won, leading to David serving time in prison.

He died on 13 August 1523 and was buried in the Church of Our Lady at Bruges.

David had been completely forgotten when in the early 1860s he was rescued from oblivion by William Henry James Weale, whose researches in the archives of Bruges brought to light the main facts of the painter’s life and led to the reconstruction of David’s artistic personality, beginning with the recognition of David’s only documented work, the Virgin Among Virgins at Rouen.

Cornelis van Cleve – Adoration of the Magi – 

Cornelis van Cleve, Cornelis van Cleef or Cornelis van der Beke, nickname Sotte Cleve (‘Mad Cleve’) (1520 in Antwerp – 1567/1614) was a Flemish Renaissance painter active in Antwerp who is known for his religious compositions and portraits. Starting his career in Antwerp in the workshop of his father Joos van Cleve, he later worked for a while in London. When he failed to achieve success in England, he became insane and stopped painting.

He was born in Antwerp as the son of Anna Vijdt and Joos van Cleve, a prominent representative of the 16th-century Antwerp school of painting. Little is known about his training but it is believe he trained in his father’s studio. Some details of his life have become mixed up with those of his father. It was believed previously it was his father who became mad and was given the nickname ‘Sotte Cleve’ (‘Mad Cleve’). However, the current view is that it was Cornelis who became mad.

Cornelis was a proficient helper in the studio of his father, probably from 1535 to 1540. It is not clear when Cornelis van Cleve became a master in the local Guild of Saint Luke. As the son of a master he did not need to register as a pupil with the Guild. He may have become a master in the Guild year 1540-1541 during which his father died. The records of the Guild for that year are lost. He seems to have been a struggling artist. There are reports that in 1546 and 1547 he had difficulties making payments on his house. This is likely the reason why he sold the house in 1555 and emigrated to England. An additional reason may have been that he harbored Protestant sympathies, as may be surmised from the name of his daughter Abigael.

The artist likely went to England to seek the patronage of Philip II of Spain who had become the joint ruler of England after his marriage to Mary I of England. The madness was reportedly caused by a conflict between Cornelis and the prominent portrait painter Anthonis Mor. He had asked Mor to plead on his behalf with Philip II to give him commissions but Mor’s intercession had been unsuccessful. This episode caused the artist to became insane.

It is not clear when the artist died. Estimates place the time of his death between 1567 and 1614.


Viewmasters    –    Hans Vandekerckhove, 2003.

Belgian b.1957-

Oil on canvas,190 x 190 cm.

Hans Vandekerckhove (Kortrijk, 12 October 1957) is a Flemish visual artist living in Ghent.

He focuses on motifs with deep-rooted tradition from Western visual arts: the Rückenfigur, the gardener, the garden and the horticulture, greenhouses, bridges and related architectural motifs, the Hieronymus motif, the girl figure, the romantic landscape, the totem animal, the sacra conversation and announcement motive. He is a romantic and individualist who in his work evolved from a neo-expressionist style (early 1980s) to an almost abstract image inspired by alchemical motifs (1990s) and then, from 1998, to return to the figurative and substantive themes, namely. of the pictorial relationship between motif and background and people and environment. Vandekerckhove’s paintings are contemplative, ascetic works that cause a certain unrest and at the same time are attractive, without falling into the alienation of surrealism. As a person and as an artist, he has a strong relationship with nature and tries to tell a story about it as a visual poet.
In June 2007 the first book with paintings from the period 1998-2006 was published by publishing house Ludion (ISBN 978 90 5544 666 7). The author is Dieter Roelstraete, art philosopher and curator at the MuHka.

The book is titled My head is my only home, an indirect reference to a song by Captain Beefheart.

Picture Palace will be published by Lannoo Publishers in 2009 (ISBN 978 90 209 8362 3). The authors are artist Pjeroo Roobjee and Paul Depondt.

The experimental film and video filmmaker Svend Thomsen, founder of Artcinema OFFOFF, turns Picture Palace into a documentary.


Willem Bartsius (Circa 1612 – Circa 1639)

Joueur de luth

Willem Bartsius (1612, Enkhuizen – 1657, Enkhuizen), was a Dutch Golden Age painter.

According to Houbraken, who mentioned his sister as Paulus Potter’s mother, his father was Paulus Bertius, the city secretary of Enkhuizen, and his mother was descended from the House of Egmont.

According to the RKD he became a member of the Alkmaar Guild of St. Luke in 1634 where he took on the pupil Abraham Meyndertsz, but in 1636 he moved to Amsterdam and little is known of him after 1639. He is known for both landscapes and portraits, including a schutterstuk in Alkmaar.