Artists Jacques and Paul lived three houses apart, and are reunited after 65 years in expo (Antwerp)

Artists Jacques and Paul lived three houses apart, and are reunited after 65 years in expo (Antwerp)
Artists Jacques and Paul lived three houses apart, and are reunited after 65 years in expo (Antwerp)
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In 1995, Omar Van Meervelde, together with some supporters, founded the Jacques Gorus art circle. This happened in the last house and studio of the etcher and draftsman, at Venusstraat 52 in the shadow of the Antwerp Academy. The aim was to preserve and promote Gorus’ legacy and to draw continued attention to the art of engraving in Antwerp. Every year the non-profit organization organizes an exhibition about an aspect of Gorus’ oeuvre.

This year a double exhibition was chosen, a dialogue between Jacques Gorus (1901-1981) and Paul Joostens (1889-1960), who lived a few small houses away at 44 Venusstraat. “Gorus often told me funny anecdotes about his neighbor,” says Van Meervelde. “One day Joostens would not have thought better of throwing a cupboard down on the street so that he could use the debris to make assemblies.”

Hearse

To say that Gorus and Joostens were close friends is an exaggeration, but they certainly knew each other. “In the early 1930s they exhibited together several times in the Party Hall on the Meir,” says Van Meervelde. “At Joostens’ funeral in 1960, Gorus walked behind the hearse together with Floris Jespers. The two definitely had a bond.”

There are also two similar photos of Gorus and Joostens as they posed for well-known photographers in the doorway of their house. The portrait of Joostens was taken by Georges Thiry, that of Gorus by Filip Tas. The two photos next to each other adorn the poster of the exhibition.

Own collection

Van Meervelde mainly curated the exhibition from his own collection. In addition to being the administrator of Gorus’ legacy, he was always an avid art collector who over the years managed to acquire many drawings by Joostens, such as typical cat paintings and fairground scenes. He once found a number of erotic pen drawings on the Vrijdagmarkt that Joostens signed under his pseudonym Malibot. They turned out to be the originals for lithographs he made in 1925 under the title Les mollusques and are now extremely sought after.

'Les Mollusques' by Paul Joostens (1925).

‘Les Mollusques’ by Paul Joostens (1925). — © Kunstkring Jacques Gorus

To further supplement the overview, Van Meervelde asked Frank Hendrickx, who built a Joostens Documentation Center in Hasselt, for some drawings from the folder. Palfium, which the artist made in 1959 at Venusstraat 44. He was already seriously ill at the time and was on medication.

For the selection of Gorus, Van Meervelde chose his strongest etchings from the 1930s, disturbing impressions from New York in which people are destroyed by enormous apartment buildings. They are supplemented with scenes from the old Antwerp harbor area, when sailors, fair-haired girls and commoners still lived close and casually side by side.

'Feast in the The Three Nuns' by Jacques Gorus (1957).

‘Feast in the The Three Nuns’ by Jacques Gorus (1957). — © Jacques Gorus Foundation

In his introduction, Dennis Van Mol praised the surprising confrontation between folk artist Gorus and avant-gardist Joostens. “Not surprising,” he argued. “There is no room for these kinds of contradictions in the canon of art history, but the canon lies and deceives. The figures that Gorus shows walking around in the Scheldt city sometimes take on an uncanny side. His small sketches then grow into an observation bordering on caricature of the emptiness behind modern times. That’s where his world touches Joostens’. Both are city people par excellence.”

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