BELGIAN MARINE PAINTERS

The sea is a vast, boundless element.  And navigation is a world apart in which economic, military, scientific, ecological, social and sports-related features blend and shift in a totally unique culture.  It is a culture where oil painters, draftsmen, water colour painters and illustrators of the sea make up an impressive crew.  The Belgian Marine Painters association brings  together the most talented active marine painters of our country.

The Belgian Marine Painters is an association that groups all active artists in Belgium whose leading themes are the sea and navigation.  Its members are expected to have ties to the sea, either through professional or leisure activities.  It is not unusual to find amongst them naval and merchant marine officers, deep-sea and inland waterway pilots or even sprightly old seadogs.

The aim of the group is to preserve a tradition that goes back to the heyday of navigation.  Time was when ship owners and captains were so proud of their vessels and their adventures that they wished to immortalize them on canvas.  Even after the invention of photography, marine painters were still often considered the best illustrators of all the aspects and fine details of the sea and navigation.  Whether as a painter, illustrator or graphic artist, they continue to dip their  brush in the palette of rich colours, both literal and figurative, of this perpetually moving environment.

There are similar associations in neighbouring countries whose members include some of the most eminent marine painters.  One may well think that maritime matters play a bigger part in the cultural heritage in those neighbouring countries, which have a more extensive and more significant maritime activity than Belgium.  But such a conclusion would underestimate Belgium's ties to the water.  Belgium does indeed have fishermen, towing and piloting services, a navy, passenger and freight vessels, and pleasure craft navigation, as well as rivers, docks, canals, sea piers and piers serving other continents across the oceans.  Furthermore, a majority of Belgians are drawn to the water, and to the artistic diversity of those who have chosen it as their main subject.

Today, the public, better informed than ever before, are very much aware of this richness, and are finding ,at last, the wake of history and the maritime adventure. At the same time they discover the versatile artistic ways of those who wanted to express themselves in this way.

Belgium has many great painters of the sea and the River Schelde who have triumphed in maritime circles but who have also left their mark on the artistic world in general: Frans Hens (1856-1928), Oscar Verpoorten (1895-1948), Maurice Segers (1883-1959), Jean-Paul Clays (1819-1900), Hendrik Schaefels (1829-1904), François Musin (1820-1888), Albert Baertsoen (1866-1922), Lodewijk Verboeckhoven l’Ancien (1802-1884), Louis Royon (1882-1968), Maurice Pauwaert (1889-1965), Desiré van Raemdonck (1901-1971) and many others.

The Belgian Marine Painters association was founded in December, 1991, on the initiative of Georges Remi and a group of active marine painters who found themselves somewhat adrift after the Société Belge des Peintres de la Mer was disbanded in 1989 in the wake of a final show at the Schaerbeek city hall.  The new group of marine painters received the backing of Charles Mermans, former president of the Royal Yacht Club of Belgium and president of the Friends of the Belgian National Museum of  Navigation, as well as the support of Alex de Vos, former curator of the same museum.  The new group is also being sponsored by the Belgian Navy which body has created since July the 14th 2000 the title of “Official Painter to the Navy”. This title is granted in function of two essential criteria : i. e. academic quality and profound knowledge of the maritime environment. A jury composed out of renown authorities both academic and maritime will each year grant the title of “ Candidate “  to the artist who meets with the above criteria. After a probation period of twice two years, the artist may receive the title of “ Official Painter to the Navy “ .

According to the society’s rules, all members are obliged to show their work at least once a year and this at the annual exhibition.

The association consists of 17 members. Their style, techniques and disciplines vary as much as the subjects they handle. Subject as men of war, old and modern freighters, sailing yachts, fishermen and harbour scenes are brought on canvas or paper in a strong individualistic style ,from surrealistic to cubistic ,from impressionist to the more academic realism.
Most of our members enjoy a long maritime career as seafarers and exhibit their works during group or individual exhibitions in Belgium and abroad.

Most of the members have been at work for many years and have already exhibited their works on many occasions, either in group or individual shows, both in Belgium and abroad.

The Belgian Marine Painters have held group exhibitions at Blankenberge, Nieuwpoort, Luik, Paris (salon de la Marine 2001), Antwerp (Eurosail 93),Lisbon '94, Royal Army Museum (2009), and are each year invited to the International Boat Show in Gent and during the Navy Days in Zeebrugge .

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