Museum De Reede presents Jules De Bruycker retrospective: cathedrals, slums and war (Antwerp)

Museum De Reede presents Jules De Bruycker retrospective: cathedrals, slums and war (Antwerp)
Museum De Reede presents Jules De Bruycker retrospective: cathedrals, slums and war (Antwerp)

For the first time, Museum De Reede offers four temporary exhibitions in one year. After Rembrandt, Karl Meersman and Kurt Peiser, the graphics museum on the Scheldt quays now pays tribute to Jules de Bruycker. Cathedrals, slums, the war and especially the people around him inspired the people of Ghent.

In the world of graphics, Jules De Bruycker (1870-1945) is a household name, the etcher who continued the tradition of Bruegel and Ensor. Because he limited himself to drawing and etching – a total of nine oil paintings are known by his hand – he enjoys much less respect and interest than his idols. In addition, he was modest and loyal, in contrast to, for example, his childhood friend Frans Masereel, who went abroad and became famous with his woodcuts.

'Death sounds again in Flanders' (1916).

‘Death sounds again in Flanders’ (1916). — © MDR

The first part of the retrospective ‘Jules De Bruycker impressive’ focuses on what the young artist saw around him: market vendors, travelers waiting in the South Station, gentlemen visiting rendezvous houses, partying people, but especially many poor people from the Ghent slums. . De Bruycker knew what that was. His father had had a good wallpapering business, but when he died prematurely due to alcohol addiction, all the money was gone. Jules tried to save the business, but decided to become a professional artist at the age of thirty. Thanks to patrons and a controlled lifestyle, he succeeded in his aim.

Visions of war

A second part of the exhibition shows the large, famous etchings that Jules De Bruycker created in London while fleeing the First World War. These are hallucinatory prints such as ‘Death again strikes Flanders’, ‘The Scourge’ and ‘Reims’, in which skeletons and coffins set the tone. According to Jasper Joris, who coordinated the exhibition, those feverish war visions were the only way out for De Bruycker. “In London he could not draw on the street because then he would be regarded as a spy. That is why he composed those scenes in which he could draw from his inventory of images that he had captured in Ghent, dramatized with war events.”

Back in Ghent, De Bruycker focused again on his familiar biotope with a special preference for the Sint-Niklaas Church and the Patershol. He himself admitted that he had little inner inspiration and had to get everything from ‘cathedrals, dormitories and especially people around me. His style has something cartoonish, but never becomes mocking or laughable and becomes more refined over the years. “The line and the void are becoming increasingly important,” says Jasper Joris.

De Bruycker concludes his oeuvre with the oppressive series ‘Gens de chez nous’, made during the Second World War. Posthumously, his widow would publish the album ‘Gens pas de chez nous’, with clandestine snapshots of the German occupier. In total, ‘Jules De Bruycker impressively’ brings together seventy works, mainly derived from the Jules De Bruycker Foundation.

Carnival, 1922.

Carnival, 1922. — © MDR


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