Antoine Wiertz

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Antoine Wiertz
Wiertz selbst bildnis.jpg
Self portrait, 1860[ citation needed ]
Born(1806-02-22)22 February 1806
Died18 June 1865(1865-06-18) (aged 59)
Nationality Belgian
Known forPainting
Notable work
The Suicide, Deux jeunes filles (La Belle Rosine)
Movement Romanticism, Symbolism
The death mask of Antoine Wiertz. Antoine Wiertz Masque.jpg
The death mask of Antoine Wiertz.

Antoine Joseph Wiertz (22 February 1806 – 18 June 1865) was a Belgian romantic painter and sculptor.

Belgium Federal constitutional monarchy in Western Europe

Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a country in Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the southwest, and the North Sea to the northwest. It covers an area of 30,688 km2 (11,849 sq mi) and has a population of more than 11.4 million. The capital and largest city is Brussels; other major cities are Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi and Liège.

Romanticism period of artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that started in 18th century Europe

Romanticism was an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century, and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850. Romanticism was characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of all the past and nature, preferring the medieval rather than the classical. It was partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, the aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific rationalization of nature—all components of modernity. It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature, but had a major impact on historiography, education, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. It had a significant and complex effect on politics, with romantic thinkers influencing liberalism, radicalism, conservatism and nationalism.

Sculpture Branch of the visual arts that operates in three dimensions

Sculpture is the branch of the visual arts that operates in three dimensions. It is one of the plastic arts. Durable sculptural processes originally used carving and modelling, in stone, metal, ceramics, wood and other materials but, since Modernism, there has been an almost complete freedom of materials and process. A wide variety of materials may be worked by removal such as carving, assembled by welding or modelling, or molded or cast.

Contents

Early life

Born in Dinant from a relatively poor family, he entered the Antwerp art academy in 1820. Thanks to his protector Pierre-Joseph de Paul de Maibe, a member of the Second Chamber of the States-General, king William I of the Netherlands awarded an annual stipend to Wiertz from 1821 onwards. Between November 1829 and May 1832, he stayed in Paris, where he studied the old masters at the Louvre.

Dinant Municipality in French Community, Belgium

Dinant is a Walloon city and municipality located on the River Meuse, in the Belgian province of Namur. It lies 90 kilometres (56 mi) south-east of Brussels, 30 kilometres (19 mi) south-east of Charleroi and 30 kilometres (19 mi) south of Namur. Dinant is situated 20 kilometres (12 mi) north of the border with France.

Royal Academy of Fine Arts (Antwerp) Art academy in Antwerp

The Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp is an art academy located in Antwerp, Belgium. It is one of the oldest of its kind in Europe. It was founded in 1663 by David Teniers the Younger, painter to the Archduke Leopold Wilhelm and Don Juan of Austria. Teniers was master of the Guild of St Luke — which embraced arts and some handicrafts — and petitioned Philip IV of Spain, then master of the Spanish Netherlands, to grant a royal charter to establish a Fine Arts Academy in Antwerp. It houses the Antwerp Fashion Academy.

William I of the Netherlands King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg 1815 - 1840

William I was a Prince of Orange and the first King of the Netherlands and Grand Duke of Luxembourg.

In 1828, Wiertz came out second in the competition for the prestigious Prix de Rome which he attained on his second attempt in 1832; it enabled him to go to the French Academy at Rome, where he resided from May 1834 until February 1837. Upon his return, he established himself in Liège with his mother.

Prix de Rome French scholarship for arts students

The Prix de Rome or Grand Prix de Rome was a French scholarship for arts students, initially for painters and sculptors, that was established in 1663 during the reign of Louis XIV of France. Winners were awarded a bursary that allowed them to stay in Rome for three to five years at the expense of the state. The prize was extended to architecture in 1720, music in 1803, and engraving in 1804. The prestigious award was abolished in 1968 by André Malraux, the Minister of Culture.

During his stay in Rome, Wiertz worked on his first great work, Les Grecs et les Troyens se disputant le corps de Patrocle ("Greeks and Trojans fighting for the body of Patroclus", finished in 1836), on a subject borrowed from book XVII of Homer's Iliad . It was exhibited in Antwerp in 1837, where it met with some success. Wiertz submitted the work for the Paris Salon of 1838, but it arrived too late and was refused.

<i>The Greeks and the Trojans Fighting over the Body of Patroclus</i> painting by Antoine Wiertz (Liège)

The Greeks and the Trojans Fighting over the Body of Patroclus is an oil painting by Antoine Wiertz. Several versions of the painting exist. The first was made in year 1836.

Homer name ascribed by the ancient Greeks to the legendary author of the Iliad and the Odyssey

Homer is the legendary author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, two epic poems that are the central works of ancient Greek literature. The Iliad is set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek kingdoms. It focuses on a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles lasting a few weeks during the last year of the war. The Odyssey focuses on the ten-year journey home of Odysseus, king of Ithaca, after the fall of Troy. Many accounts of Homer's life circulated in classical antiquity, the most widespread being that he was a blind bard from Ionia, a region of central coastal Anatolia in present-day Turkey. Modern scholars consider these accounts legendary.

<i>Iliad</i> Epic poem attributed to Homer

The Iliad is an ancient Greek epic poem in dactylic hexameter, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy (Ilium) by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles.

Mature works

At the Paris Salon of 1839, Wiertz showed not only his Patrocles, but also three other works: Madame Laetitia Bonaparte sur son lit de mort ("Madame Laetitia Bonaparte on her deathbed"), La Fable des trois souhaits—Insatiabilité humaine ("The fable of the three wishes—Human insatiability") and Le Christ au tombeau ("Christ entombed"). Badly hung and lit, his entry elicited indifference on the part of the public, and provoked sarcasm among the critics. This second humiliation led to a profound rancour against art critics and against Paris, as expressed in his virulent pamphlet Bruxelles capitale, Paris province.

Letizia Ramolino Mother of Napolean

Nob.Maria Letizia BuonapartenéeRamolino was an Italian noblewoman, mother of Napoleon I of France.

In 1844, Wiertz painted a second version of his Patrocles on an even bigger scale than the first (the 1836 version measures 3.85m by 7.03m; the 1844 version 5.20m by 8.52). The Rome version is now in the Museum of Walloon Art in Liège, the 1844 in the Wiertz Museum in Brussels.

Brussels Capital region of Belgium

Brussels, officially the Brussels-Capital Region, is a region of Belgium comprising 19 municipalities, including the City of Brussels, which is the capital of Belgium. The Brussels-Capital Region is located in the central portion of the country and is a part of both the French Community of Belgium and the Flemish Community, but is separate from the Flemish Region and the Walloon Region. Brussels is the most densely populated and the richest region in Belgium in terms of GDP per capita. It covers 161 km2 (62 sq mi), a relatively small area compared to the two other regions, and has a population of 1.2 million. The metropolitan area of Brussels counts over 2.1 million people, which makes it the largest in Belgium. It is also part of a large conurbation extending towards Ghent, Antwerp, Leuven and Walloon Brabant, home to over 5 million people.

After the Paris disaster, Wiertz veered more and more to the excessive. A fine example is the monumental La Chute des Anges rebelles ("The Fall of the rebellious Angels", 1841), on an arched canvas of 11.53m by 7.93m.

The death of his mother in 1844 was a terrible blow to the artist. He left Liège in 1845 to settle in Brussels for good. During this period he painted a confrontation of Beauty and Death, Deux jeunes filles—La Belle Rosine (1847), which remains perhaps his most famous work.

Deux jeunes filles (La Belle Rosine), Oil on canvas, 1847 Antoine Wiertz Two Young Girls or the Beautiful Rosine.jpg
Deux jeunes filles (La Belle Rosine), Oil on canvas, 1847

Dissatisfied with the shiny effect of oil painting, he developed a new technique combining the smoothness of oil painting with the speed of execution and the dullness of painting in fresco. This technique of mat painting entailed the use of a mixture of colours, turpentine and petrol on holland. La Lutte homérique ("The Homeric struggle", 1853) was the first big-scale painting executed in this technique. However, the components used in this technique are responsible for the slow decay of the works produced with it.

Many of his works from the 1850s have a social or philosophical message, often translated in delirious imagery, like Faim, Folie et Crime ("Hunger, Madness and Crime", 1853), La Liseuse de Romans ("The Reader of Novels", 1853), Le Suicide ("The Suicide", 1854), L'Inhumation précipitée ("The premature burial", 1854), Le Dernier Canon ("The last gun", 1855).

Wiertz was also a fine portrait painter, who made self-portraits at various ages. As a sculptor, he produced his most important project towards the end of his life: a series of plasters representing Les Quatre Âges de l'Humanité ("The Four Ages of Humanity", 1860–1862), reproduced in marble for the Wiertz museum by Auguste Franck.

Influenced mainly by Rubens and the late Michelangelo, Wiertz' monumental painting often moves between classical academism and lurid romanticism, between the grandiose and the ridiculous. Although his work was often derided as art pompier, his pictorial language nevertheless preannounced symbolism and a certain kind of surrealism, two currents that would be very strong in Belgian painting.

Later life

After difficult negotiations with the Belgian government, Wiertz was able to realize his dream to turn his last studio into a museum for his works. The Belgian State bought a piece of land and funded the construction of a huge hall to accommodate the painter's monumental works. In exchange, Wiertz donated all his works to the Belgian State, with the express proviso that they should remain in his studio both during and after his lifetime.

Wiertz died in his studio. His remains were embalmed in accordance with Ancient Egyptian burial rites and buried in a vault in the municipal cemetery of Ixelles.

A copy of one of Antoine Wiertz's works, the statue of The Triumph of Light was once prominently located high on San Francisco's Mount Olympus between the Haight-Ashbury and Corona Heights. It had been presented to the city of San Francisco by Adolph Sutro in 1887. Over the years due to lack of care and maintenance the statue fell into disrepair. By the late 1930s, even the history and origins of the statue were no longer common knowledge in San Francisco, and by the mid-1950s, the statue disappeared. All that remains today is the pedestal and base of the monument. [1]

Honours

Wiertz Museum

Main hall of The Wiertz Museum, Brussels. Main Hall of the Wiertz Museum 2.jpg
Main hall of The Wiertz Museum, Brussels.

The Antoine Wiertz Museum is now one of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. [3] It is located in the Leopold district of Brussels, near the Luxembourg railway station, today overshadowed by the European Parliament complex. The Rue Wiertz runs from the museum through the Parliament complex, in an unintended echo of Wiertz' call for Brussels to become the capital of Europe.

Contemporary opinions of the museum and the works therein are mixed:

Footnotes

  1. Sutro's Triumph of Light Statue
  2. Almanach royal officiel de Belgique/1841
  3. "The Antoine Wiertz Museum". Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium. Retrieved 9 October 2016.
  4. Dunford, Martin; Phil Lee (2002). The Rough Guide to Belgium & Luxembourg, 3rd ed. Rough Guides Limited. p. 101. ISBN   1-85828-871-1 . Retrieved 16 August 2009.
  5. Cole, Geert; Logan, Leanne (2007). Lonely Planet Belgium & Luxembourg, 3rd ed. Hawthorn, Vic., Australia: Lonely Planet Publications. p. 86. ISBN   978-1-74104-237-5 . Retrieved 16 August 2009.
  6. "A Belgian national champion. A terrible lesson from a terrible painter". The Economist. 9 July 2009. Retrieved 16 August 2009.

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