Plat pays

Muriel de Crayencour
02 septembre 2015
The summer exhibition at the Museum of Ixelles presents a great series of paintings and pictures centred around the topic of Belgian landscapes. Starting with a work from 1830, the exhibition covers almost 200 years of visualizing the landscape that surrounds us. Organized around different themes, the exhibition kicks of showing the Belgian landscape par excellence; the unavoidable view on the North Sea, as well as views of the Campine region and Meuse valley. Grey skies, a flat horizon, a soured pallet, … you’d think you’re hearing Brel sing about his Plat pays. 

After watching the Landscapes of the Nation, we come across the industrial landscapes, including this astonishing huge drawing, Vue topographique de Grand-Hornu (1900), which illustrates the site’s rail facilities in detail, in a well-considered, functional way. Other industrial views are more poetic, like this Terril de charbonnage by Maximilien Luce, where the blue blends with the sky. A great series of photographs by Jacques Charlier, Canalisations souterraines, une caricature des dernières tendances paysagistes (1969), add humour to the landscape – something typical Belgian too, maybe?

For those who want to dream away … don’t miss the night-time landscapes, including two sumptuous pastels by William Degouve de Nuncques and an almost abstract Spilliaert, in cobalt blue, which looks so modern!  “While pointing to the sky, he told me that yesterday was beautiful (a full moon) and that stars are one of those things that will always look modern. The moon is one of the most beautiful of all stars, because it has suffered the most,” said Alfred Stevens to Henry de Groux (who spoke about this in a letter to his friend William Degouve de Nuncques).

One ‘chapter’ of the exhibition is dedicated to clouds, which are definitely in fashion this summer as we’ve seen plenty of them at the Château de Rœulx. Here we found Ensor, totally unexpectedly, but also Ciel nuageux by Hippolyte Boulenger: a thin strip of land at the bottom of the canvas and then the sky, immense and fluffy. Two pictures on transparent film by Hervé Charles (1992) make a contemporary counterpoint to the clouds of René Magritte, which he entitled La malédicton.

Not to miss either: Pol Bury, Vieillesse du cuivre (1944) or Jan Vanriet, Night-time landscape (2010) in the ‘chapter’ of interior landscapes. Or Mig Quinet, Serge Vandercam and Bram Bogart in a series of abstract works. And make sure to look for photographs by writer Jean-Philippe Toussaint, who has written a piece of fiction, The disappearance of landscape, specially for the exhibition.

The tour is enjoyable yet a bit imbalanced. But Dunes au soleil by Anna Boch, which is used to promote the exhibition, as well as the pastels by Degouve de Nuncques and Spilliaert are already worth the trip. The tour will also bring you to the renovated rooms of the standing exhibition to see the museum’s latest acquisitions, including La Consolation or La visite de condoléances, by Alfred Stevens, bought this year, or Panamarenko’s Paradox purchased in 2013.
Paysages de Belgique
Musée d’Ixelles (Museum of Ixelles)
71 rue Van Volsem
1050 Brussels
Until 20 September
Tuesdays-Sundays, from 9:30 to 17:00


Muriel de Crayencour

Rédactrice en chef

Voir et regarder l’art. Puis transformer en mots cette expérience première, qui est comme une respiration. « L’écriture permet de transmuter ce que l’œil a vu. Ce processus me fascine. » Philosophe et sculptrice de formation, elle a été journaliste entre autres pour L’Echo et Marianne Belgique. Elle revendique de pouvoir écrire dans un style à la fois accessible et subjectif. La critique est permise ! Elle écrit sur l’art, la politique culturelle, l’évolution des musées et de la manière de montrer l’art. Elle est aussi artiste. Elle a fondé le magazine Mu in the City en 2014.

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