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On My To Do List

Antoine Joseph Wiertz (1806 – 1865). Don’t know why he popped into my head tonight. He was a Belgian painter in the Romantic tradition (though “Romantic” is a brain-hurty way to describe most of his work). After art school, he won the Prix de Rome, a fellowship that allowed him to live and study in Rome for a few years.

He entered a few bits in at the Paris Salon of 1839. That didn’t go so well.

Up to that point, he’d specialized in big, bombastic historical paintings. After the French snub, he went back to Brussels and got weird. The Belgian government was anxious to promote local painters, so they built him a studio in 1850. He holed up in it, writing and painting all on his ownsome, until he died in it fifteen years later.

He had a prodigious output. He did the usual historical and Biblical subjects, but also lots of paintings that were macabre or erotic. Or both. When he died, he left his studio and its entire contents to the Belgian government on condition that they make it a museum in perpetuity.

I bet they’re real sorry about that now. His paintings have gone way, WAY out of style; their museum is a bit of a laughing stock. It’s been on my “things to do across the Channel” list forever.

Some typical examples: Human Insatiability. Suicide. Two Young Girls (one of ’em dead). Two Witches. The Burned Child. Oh, and he was also involved in a distasteful experiment with a freshly severed head. So I learned that today.

Not a very good painter, but the situation is self-correcting. He experimented with the composition of his paints. This is always a bad idea; his stuff is gently falling to bits.

September 20, 2011 — 10:07 pm
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