An Eye on Flanders: The Graphic Art of Jules De Bruycker

by Stephen Goddard
© 1996 Spencer Museum of Art
The art of Jules De Bruycker is intimately interwoven with the geography and lore of his hometown of
Ghent, Belgium. Some of his biographers have used this fact to attempt to align De Bruycker's art with
some of the vital aspects of the city's political history. Specifically, De Bruycker has been described as
sympathetic to Ghent's central role in Flemish socialism and the Flemish Movement, which championed
Flemish rights and culture. Seen in that light, De Bruycker offered an ideal of a working-class Flemish
artist steeped in the task of describing the poor and disenfranchised of Ghent. In addition, his satirical
and whimsical bent inevitably led to comparisons with earlier Flemish masters, notably Pieter Bruegel
the Elder. Today it is not uncommon to hear De Bruycker described in Belgium as "too Flemish, too
Belgian." This perception of De Bruycker as something of a cultural extremist has allowed him to be
implicated in chauvinistic texts or to be construed as a reactionary, even xenophobic figure. However,
the truth is that he remained aloof, avoiding any particular political association and disavowing his
humble origins.
De Bruycker's aloofness went beyond his political and social stance. Like many other independents in
the twentieth century, he ignored the path of modernism and worked instead in his own idiosyncratic
style, which dwelled tenaciously on the dignity of the old city, its traditions, and its inhabitants. His
career might have been assessed as the nostalgic brooding of a malcontent had it not been interrupted
twice by a world war. De Bruycker's sustained activity as an inveterate and careful observer lends his
wartime prints an undeniable authority, and in retrospect his wartime prints assure us of the depth of
compassion in his scenes of Ghent.
Ghent [Flemish: Gent, French: Gand], the capitol of the province of East Flanders, is central to Flemish
history, geography, and culture. The origins of this city on the rivers Leie and Lieve (near the river
Scheldt) go back to the establishment of two abbeys, Sint-Pieters and Sint-Baafs, in the seventh
century. After the abbey of Sint-Baaf was destroyed, the chapter was transferred to the Church of Sint-
Jan, which became the Cathedral of Sint-Baaf in 1559 and houses one of the masterpieces of Northern
European painting, the Ghent Altarpiece by the brothers Hubert and Jan Van Eyck. Ghent is graced
with several other beautiful historical buildings: the medieval Cloth Hall, Belfry, and Town Hall; the
Castle of the Counts of Flanders [the Gravensteen or Gravenkasteel] whose foundations date back to
the ninth century; and the churches of Sint-Jacobs (12th-15th c), Sint-Niklaas (13th-14th c), and Sint-
Michiels (15th-17th c). Two beguinages [begijnhofs, convents for the begijns, members of a lay
sisterhood] also were situated in Ghent beginning in the 13th century. These two begijnhofs had nearly a
thousand Sisters in residence in 1910, about two thirds of the begijns then still active in Belgium.1
Many historical events point to Ghent's central role in the Flemish provinces. In 867-68 Baldwin Iron
Arm, first Count of Flanders, built his castle in Ghent to defend against the Norsemen. The city
established its wealth on a burgeoning textile industry. Ultimately the Count of Flanders, who was loyal
to the French King, and the wealthy merchants in Ghent's textile industry came to an impasse, and the
citizens sought, and eventually won, independence from the French. Under the leadership of Jan
Borluut, soldiers from Ghent participated in the Battle of the Golden Spurs near Kortrijk in 1302, in
which the best of the French Chivalry was entrapped and routed by Flemish soldiers armed with pikes.2
Ghent found a martyr in Jacob Van Artevelde, who had fought for the interests of the merchants and
sided with England (the source of wool for the Flemish weaving industry) rather than France in the early
years of the Hundred Years War. Van Artevelde, who managed to form an alliance among the cities of
Ghent, Bruges, and Ieper with himself as Captain General, was murdered in 1345 at an uprising incited
by his plan to change Ghent's allegiance from Count Louis of Flanders to the Black Prince of Wales.
Ghent achieved tremendous wealth during the years of Van Artevelde's stewardship and he has become
emblematic of the city's independence; his statue of 1863 is a well-known landmark in the Vrijdagmarkt
[Friday Market].
With the introduction of cotton mills in the nineteenth-century, the textile industry again became the heart
of Ghent's economy. The increasing population of weavers and spinners led to myriad social problems
and, in turn, to the formation of pre-socialist workers organizations. As early as 1857 the Brotherly
Society of Ghent Weavers and the Society of Destitute Brothers [Broederlijke Maatschappij van
Gentsche Wevers and Maatschappij der Noodlijdende Broeders] were established in Ghent.3 With the
advocacy of Emiel Moyson, a system of medical and social assistance for the needy was created, and
ultimately the workers of Ghent found mutual support through the various forms of aid sponsored by the
peoples' meeting hall, the Vooruit. The socialist newspaper that takes its name from the Vooruit often
published articles on the art of Jules De Bruycker.
Together with Antwerp, Ghent played a significant role in the Flemish Movement, which sought the
same legal and social footing for the Flemish-speaking population of Belgium as had long been enjoyed
by the French-speaking.4 The Royal Flemish Academy for Literature and Linguistics [Koninklijke
Vlaamse Academie voor Taal- en Letterkunde] was established in Ghent in 1886. Tokens of the
"language problem" occasionally appear in De Bruycker's works, but as was the case with political
issues in general, he did not reveal his opinions in his work. It would appear that he alienated neither
linguistic camp, for among the distinguished literary figures from Ghent who wrote admiringly about De
Bruycker was a leading figure in Flemish letters, Karel van de Woestijne, and three others who wrote in
French: Jean de Bosschère, Grégoire le Roy and Franz Hellens.5 Even De Bruycker's close friend Peter
Bonnel emphasized the artist's essentially apolitical stance.6 In his private correspondence with the
Dutch collectors Jacob and Louise de Graaff-Bachiene, however, De Bruycker expressed a decidedly
pro-Flemish attitude, and it is probably significant that in addition to his following among the readership
of Vooruit, one of the key studies on De Bruycker was by Achilles Mussche, a leading Flemish socialist,
advocate of Flemish letters, and native of Ghent.
Ghent also played an important role in art and literature.7 The city claims considerable artistic ancestry
in the fact that the van Eyck brothers and Hugo van der Goes lived and worked there in the fifteenth-
century. In De Bruycker's own time some of the key artistic figures in Ghent were the painter Théo van
Rysselberghe, one of the central figures in the Belgian avant-garde artists' group Les XX; the sculptor
Georges Minne, also of Les XX, whose work was of considerable importance in the genesis of
European expressionism; the talented landscape and portrait artist Gustave van de Woestijne, who was,
with Minne, central to the Sint-Martens-Latem artists' colony near Ghent; and the woodcut artist Frans
Masereel (later active in Paris), whose enormous output of stark black and white images on the themes
of the contradictions of modern life were often put into the service of international socialism. In the
literary realm, in addition to the previously mentioned Franz Hellens, Grégoire le Roy, and Karel van de
Woestijne (brother of Gustave), Ghent also claims the symbolist playwright Maurice Maeterlinck, who
won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1911.
It should be borne in mind that Ghent is not unique among Belgian cities in its ability to conjure up a rich
past and a vigorous modern culture. The features that distinguish Ghent are those that Achilles Mussche
spelled out in rather effusive poetic terms in his discussion of De Bruycker's origins. Mussche speaks of
Ghent as a city of contrasts whose working population, whether in service to the woolen industry of the
Middle Ages or to the cotton mills of De Bruycker's day, lived in the poor quarters situated between the
antithetical emblems of clerical and temporal power: the Abbeys and Castle of the Counts:
In the watchtowers and chapel a cotton mill screeches and drones; men women and children are
worse off than animals and toil in the falling cold. Hundreds of pitiful hovels and pubs fester like
leprous bumps on the cold hard stones of the castle - an incomparable image of class contrast.8
Even if somewhat contrived, the stereotype of "turbulent, seething GhentÉwhere medieval Europeans
first rose against privilege and power" or Ghent as "the bubbling cauldron of Europe" is one that its own
citizens have done much to promote.9 While De Bruycker's art has been pressed into service to foster
just this image of Ghent, a careful examination will show that he had a dispassionate, bemused, and
ironic view of the mundane comings and goings of his compatriots.
Although scaffolding adorns many of the buildings depicted in De Bruycker's works, he contemplated
the gussying up of medieval Ghent in preparation for the 1913 World Exposition with amusement and
detachment. Around the turn of the century Ghent was subject to many transformations. Sections of the
Lieve River and old canals were vaulted over [fig. 2], new boulevards were constructed, and the canal
system was much improved so that larger vessels could reach Ghent from the sea. Under the
administration of Hippolyte Lippens (Mayor 1882-95) some of the "leprous quarters, the unhealthy
enclosures where the workers were penned up," such as the Kattenberg, the Kalleitje, the Gruisberg,
the Nieuwpoortje, and the alleys known as Reep and Veer, were subject to urban renewal and
replaced with "well ventilated streets, spacious structures, or elegant squares."10 The Lippens
administration also supported the restoration of many public monuments, notably the Castle of the
Counts [fig. 3]. Mayor Lippens was succeeded by the city engineer, Emile Braun (Mayor 1896-1907),
who continued "renovations" and the erection of new streets and structures with fervor. Following the
models of Baron George Haussmann in Paris and Mayor Jules Anspach in Brussels, Braun's
administration oversaw the gutting of the old center of town in order that the views of the Belfry, Town
Hall, Cloth Hall, Sint-Baafs, and Sint-Niklaas would be unencumbered by smaller structures.11 While
the church of Sint-Niklaas was of special significance to De Bruycker, the old streets, with names like
Luizengevecht, Serpentstraat, Bloedsteeg [Louse-battle, Snake Street, Blood Alley] served as De
Bruycker's primary inspiration in his early career.
Jules De Bruycker was born March 29, 1870, in one of the old quarters of Ghent on Jan Breydelstraat,
no. 9. His family ran an upholstery and wallpapering business that De Bruycker continued to manage for
much of his life. The young De Bruycker displayed promise as an artist and, at age ten, began to attend
art school at the Academy of Fine Art in Ghent. This study was interrupted after four years by the death
of his father. For many years De Bruycker worked on household interiors to help the family, while he
did his best to pursue his art on the side. Much to his annoyance, even after enjoying considerable
success as an artist De Bruycker was still referred to as the tapissier or behangersgast [upholsterer or
wallpaperer]. In a gesture of self-ridicule typical of De Bruycker, he added a droll depiction of himself
beating wool stuffing to refurbish some furniture, inscribed "the beginning of our career," next to his
signature in an impression of one of his prints [cat. 14].12
The degree to which De Bruycker's daytime job surfaces in discussions by his contemporaries and
compatriots tells us a good deal about the level of class consciousness in Ghent. Consider, for example,
the story told on several occasions by the Ghent writer Franz Hellens, author of En Ville Morte [In the
Dead City, cat. 6 and 7], a dark and evocative novel published in 1907, steeped in the "dead city
theme" established by Belgian symbolist author Georges Rodenbach's Bruges la Morte [Bruges the
Dead].13 Hellens, who must have been familiar with De Bruycker's drawings, realized that they would
make a perfect compliment to his gloomy narrative set in old Ghent and, sometime around 1905, set out
to meet the artist:
I got his address and I decided to go knock on his door. To my great disappointment, he lived
in a tidy little house on an ordinary street in the new part of town. No doubt I would find myself
face to face with a poorly dressed being whose lean and sickly face and long unkempt hair
immediately indicated the traits of an artist. A small well-dressed man with a conscientious air
and an entirely normal likeness opened the door. Where had I seen this figure before? I
remembered. My parents lived in a bourgeois house between town and country. One afternoon
I was busy slogging away at the material for my next exam when someone knocked at the door.
I answered in an ill humor and scarcely glanced at the intruder, an ordinary man of about thirty
years, whose contours, at first, seemed devoid of character. He had a carefully trimmed short
beard and held a bowler in his hand. "I am the tapissier," he said to me in a subdued voice.14
The figure, of course, was De Bruycker, who had come to repair a window for Hellens' parents.
De Bruycker joked about this inescapable identity; the following passage follows his description of a
Ghent tapissier who had left the trade to make a fortune performing balancing acts:
Am I not a failed tapissier? No doubt one learns most from bad experiences. I too dreamed of
going around and somersaulting, in a modest way, of course, with my pencil - because I never
had the disposition for the stage or the circus.
I drew over and over, and my father put this to good advantage and sent me to the academy.
He thought that the study of styles would be useful for a tapissier. We were at the dawn of the
age when the bourgeois dreamed of a Renaissance dining room and a Louis XVI living room.15
De Bruycker further decried that even after attempting a disguise by shaving his beard following his long
absence from Ghent during World War I (during which time he had enjoyed considerable success as an
expatriate artist) he was greeted back home by passers-by as the tapissier:
Pow! With a blow I felt the little aureole that I thought adorned me go out. More than fifty
etchings, numerous watercolors, and thousands of drawings amounted to nothing for my home
town. I was always le tapissier, the humble upholsterer!16
the barb was nowhere more forcefully, and probably intentionally, applied than by Karel van de
Woestijne who recollects in a 1922 article, "We weren't yet artists: you were a wallpaperer
[behangersjongen] (now may I blab it out?), I a student in the first levels of the university."17 Both
Hellens and van de Woestijne make a clear distinction between themselves - young privileged members
of the intelligentsia attending the university - and De Bruycker, whom they place irrevocably in the role
of a common worker. This distinction was not without irony; as we will see, De Bruycker sought
respect as an artist and distance from his humble origins while the brothers van de Woestijne sought
solace and inspiration from the rural peasantry in the countryside outside of Ghent.
In 1893, after nine years absence, De Bruycker re-entered the Ghent Academy, where he studied with
the painters Théo Canell, Louis Tijtgadt, and Jean-Joseph Delvin. During this period and the years that
followed, while he took up residence in a bohemian community, De Bruycker continued to work in the
family trade. This was also when De Bruycker, who had yet to learn to make prints, concentrated on
making drawings of the inhabitants of the poorer quarters of Ghent. Delvin later wrote to one of De
Bruycker's collector's, René van Herrewege:
Long ago De Bruycker once let me into the room where he worked - I don't remember how or
why. I was completely overwhelmed. Everywhere drawings on little loose pieces of paper,
carelessly and deliberately unfinished to entice the interested. Everything was used, in every
possible way just to give the impression of an overwhelming train of thought. There I saw human
wretchedness laid bare, as it is, distinct or obscure. And I remember the peaceful figure of De
Bruycker. Only his fleeting eyes betrayed his restlessness. I remember his blazing glance,
whenever he maintained that he had not made a caricature. "An art to make you laugh?" he
mused. "My soul cries whenever I so portray humanity. I see them so, and this is how they are.
I have compassion for them, endless compassion."18
In 1902, in his early years as an artist (though he was already over 30), De Bruycker took up residence
at an abandoned Carmelite abbey in the district across from the Gravensteen called the Patershol, which
can be translated roughly as "the monks' den" [figs. 4, 5]. This was the most notorious bohemian locale
in turn-of-the-century Ghent. Many of the leading writers and artists of the day visited the Patershol, and
it has been evocatively described in both of Karel van de Woestijne's long articles about De Bruycker.
This is how De Bruycker described his new haunt:
In 1902 I changed my quarters and set myself up in the Patershol - a largely ruined ancient
convent - where more than one artist established a residence. These makeshift lodgings nearly
all opened onto a vast interior court which allowed a favorable light. It was a picturesque milieu,
not only for the decrepitude of the buildings, but also for the variety of the tenants: artists and
poor, drunk incorrigibles. This is where I grappled with my large format watercolors.19
As Robert Hoozee has demonstrated, Karel van de Woestijne and his criticism were
central to Flemish art in the early twentieth century.20 Twice van de Woestijne
published long articles on De Bruycker, in 1912 and 1922. Rather than in-depth studies
of the artist, however, these articles made use of De Bruycker as a touchstone for
considering Ghent and its environment, especially its seedy, bohemian milieu. They also
offered the author opportunities to reminisce about his hometown and to recapitulate
some of the seminal events and characters in turn-of-the-century Flemish arts and
letters. These articles paint a vivid picture of De Bruycker's haunts and merit a careful
reading. Among the many digressions, van de Woestijne fondly recalls visits by Flemish
authors Stijn Streuvels and Herman Teirlinck to the Patershol, as well as his meeting
with Jules de Praetere there. De Praetere was among the most gifted book designers
and printers of Flemish literature. Among his achievements is his beautiful edition of Stijn
Streuvels' Lenteleven [Spring Life]. As van de Woestijne recalled ten years later, in
Sitting round that stove on rather rickety chairs, we smoked our clay pipes.
Remember Herman Teirlinck, when we were studying in Ghent at the time, how
we wrangled about Shakespearean criticism around that intimate little stove.
And all the other mates, how we analyzed Kropotkin. And you, Julius De
Praetere yourself, who have since become Herr Direktor of the Zurich
Kunstgewerbe-Museums, remember how we glowed with enthusiasm for a new
art of the book; how we, with no money and without certainty, began the
publication "Werk," which, after the first series of "Van Nu en Straks" (still its
most beautiful number whose printing, ornamentation, and highly logical
typography rendered it the most consciously executed periodical)21 remember,
how we (while searching, from inn to inn, for the best Oudenaard beer), lived in
a restless and wavering, yet wonderful intellectual life! Further in the hall stood
the unwieldy handpress, amidst tables and easels, the press De Praetere used to
realize his insight into the art of printing. The pages of Stijn Streuvels'
"Lenteleven" dried on long ropes, for the first edition was issued here.22
Both Karel and his brother, the painter Gustave van de Woestijne, had frequented the
Patershol, but another artists' colony was more central to their activity. This was the
colony of artists who gathered in the countryside at Sint-Martens-Latem, outside of
Ghent. From van de Woestijne's vantage point, De Bruycker and the denizens of the
Patershol represented an urban counterpoint to the immersion in rusticity that the artists
of Sint-Martens-Latem pursued. This was not just a return to nature, but to some
degree an attempt to return to the pristine world that could be gleaned from the
paintings of the fifteenth-century "Flemish Primitives." There is an undeniable naiveté in
the young van de Woestijne brothers' sojourn at Sint-Martens-Latem, and this too may
be construed as a counterpoint to more worldly existence in the Patershol. Gustave
wrote a book about the years at Sint-Martens-Latem called Karel en Ik [Karel and I];
it is a valuable and unusually frank testimony. Gustav's anecdotal text not only tells us
much about the informal gatherings of the artists of Sint-Martens-Latem; we also learn
that when the brothers van de Woestijne proved to be incapable of properly caring for
themselves (they became sick from eating nothing but eggs) their mother arranged for a
maid to look after them. They had a gardener as well. All of this afforded them the
luxury of time to create some of the most remarkable paintings and texts of twentieth-
century Belgium.
Karel van de Woestijne's lengthy evocation of the Patershol, by way of discussing De
Bruycker, was a means of writing the history of the avant-garde that developed in the
environs of Ghent. While there is a distinguishable reluctance to place De Bruycker in
the center of this avant-garde, van de Woestijne's 1922 article gives one of the most
intimate, recollections of the Patershol and includes a description of his meeting of De
Bruycker there:
As with other artists who had put up at the Pand, the Rolleken or the
Vrouwebroers, he [De Bruycker] lived in a locale of the Patershol. Pand,
Rolleken, Vrouwebroers and Patershol were interwoven monastic complexes.
Earlier the Pand was dependent on the masters of Saint Michael's [Sinte-
Michielsheeren]; the Rolleken owed its name to the niche, divided by a
partition, wherein people (an example is given by no one less than Jean-Jacques
Rousseau) laid down newborn children for whom there was no place in the
hearts of the mother and father. The brothers of Our Lady gave their name to
the third giant building. The "Patershol" did not have a double meaning; it was an
ink black hole where in previous centuries hundreds of monks ["paters" or
fathers] lived. The last two localities, "Vrouwebroers" and "Patershol," were
especially ruinous, but were able to live on as architectonic curiosities. They
stood, bony and immovable, in the heavy shadow of the nearly thousand-year-
old Gravensteen, where at the time swarms of workers were making lengthy
reparations. These buildings blocked the narrow, long, winding alleys in the
middle of which a trench made its smokey meander, and from the infinitely high
and listing houses wafted the smell of lye and coal smoke that was the natural
evaporation of the wives who could be heard quarreling and whose children
could be heard whining. The Vrouwebroers shone with a beneficent cleanliness.
A large gate led to a courtyard that, to the left, showed the broad leaves of tall
sunflowers on the threshold of the little houses where the old people had their
homes. To the right, in the clear corridor that enclosed the side of the courtyard
and its grassy cobblestones, there was a wide oak stairway [fig. 6] with
decorative carving that led to the cells that had been fixed up as ateliers. One
usually found award-winning painters there, it was a dignified place. The
principal building in the Patershol, which lay right across from a suspicious inn
that was full of deathly quiet until ten o'clock at night - and then the nightly
screaming commenced as if someone had been murdered under the final
command of hellish powers - the principal building in the Patershol saw its
courtyard taken over by a cooper who burned a little wood fire under his fir
cask that burned the eyes and throat. To the left, under the old slate roof that
declined on a handsomely carved rafter, a steep stone stairway turned, with the
help of a rope shining with grease, where the painters ateliers opened up. They
were large, blue-plastered spaces, furnished with a singularly eloquent
slovenliness. There was no single hole through which you could see the slightest
decoration. On the other hand, unmade beds with dubious sheets offered a
hospitable sleeping accommodation. The lack of paintings here was noteworthy:
impoverished painters rarely think of work. But one noted unwashed plates here
that suggested that something was eaten now and then. The walls did not yield
pride of place to those of Italian palaces: there were many naked figures drawn
in charcoal in a moment of megalomania. A pile of books lay under a rusty
revolver: inviolable fruit of the mind. And further on there was the misery of a
plaintive man.
I have begun with the worst. Among them was the cell of someone who had
actually made it as far as professor in the drawing academy. He had a
consumptive wife in a room in town: therefore he didn't need a bed here. He
had a harmonium in its place that played the role of stimulus. Schiller surrounded
himself with rotten apples, Puvis de Chavannes brushed his legs with eau de
cologne, Beethoven poured water over his wrists; this figure played Gounod's
Ave Maria on an out of tune harmonium. He needed to do this in order to paint
the Stations of the Cross, which was his continual occupation. An interment was
scarcely done and he would stretch a canvas for the scene of Christ Before
Pontius Pilate. With the greatest regularity the other twelve stations were
painted. There was never the least alteration in painting, nor in drawing nor
color. We knew exactly when he was about to start an anguished look with the
tip his round brush (sign of his skill): he played an Ave Maria, and there was the
inspiration to do it. We had a sort of disdainful pity for him; his wife had
consumption, his sallow children continuously snotnosed.
It was under the inspirational weepiness of the Gounod harmonium that I laid
my hand for the first time in that of Jules de Bruycker, upholsterer
(behangersgast). It was in the lowest of the rooms; high windows let in the smell
of the wood fire that warmed the belly of the fir barrels in which apples would
be sent to England; which was at the time a Ghent occupation that I never
properly understood. This spacious room with tall vaults, where the vestige of
an altar seemed to be, was as good as nothing in bringing painting to mind. But
there was a Gothic grammar, the English exercises by Stoffel and a critical
edition of [Schiller's tragedy] Kabale und Liebe: my property. Shared property
included a pile of numbers of Les Temps nouveaux and the Mercure de France.
There was also a very handsome pipe, that had no other pleasure than to sop,
that I had made a communal gift of. About this time this locale was honored
with a visit from Stijn Streuvels and Herman Teirlinck. On this occasion the red
tile floor was swept clean by a model invited for this purpose. She was a sleepy
gal full of submissiveness. She thought she had been invited to pose, but it was
just to sweep. For her it was a disappointment that she didn't have to disrobe.
She had never accepted a cent for sweeping.
In this room and under these circumstances [ruminating about painting theory,
Kabale und Liebe] that I first met Jules de Bruycker. He was not agreeable:
nearly ten years older than I, gifted with a talent already valued by his friends,
but he had never held an etching needle in his hand, only upholsterers nails that
he used to use - he sprang in on us, the strap of a round, red carpetbag over his
shoulder. He had to care for his mother and sister, he worked with intensity and
bitterness. He was shy and a skeptic; he laughed with contempt when it was
said that he could earn more as a draftsman than as tapissier. He was old
enough not to give in to idle fancy. There was something that he knew only too
well: he would never be a good painter as he was as good as colorblind. He,
who was already a grandiose caricaturist, with all the qualities of a Daumier,
nevertheless lacked Daumier's somber colors. Sometimes he brought us
drawings, and once on request he watercolored one of his drawings (it was, I
think, his first commission). Then we looked at him: his clownish head distorted
and trembled around the mouth. His wonderful pointed nose that really looks,
his penetrating eyes, his small and wonderfully movable lips, his entire gaunt and
supple body, they were a negation, that signified everything: nothing, nothing.
And nevertheless he could not live without drawing. More than an obsession, it
was a need with him. Meeting a type that caught his attention on the street, he
followed him, a paper in the palm, pencil between his fingers. He forgot his
wallpapering and upholstery work (behangerswerk); he was possessed by
Van de Woestijne apparently met De Bruycker in a central, communal room, where
pipe smoking and discussions of the anarchist thinker Kropotkin or the socialist journal
Les Temps nouveaux prevailed. However, De Bruycker seems to have preferred the
company of several noted eccentrics in the Patershol, among them Cies de Kalle
(pseudonym for Georges vande Walle, see cat. 1) and a certain Van der Swalm,
respectively characterized by Chabot as "a painter who claimed to be followed by light
rays, and a former mason who presented himself as owner of the Gravenkasteel - each
called the other crazy."24 Van de Woestijne claims that de Kalle got his name (which
means magpie) because of his habit of springing about on his long legs, continuously
prattling in a mix of French and Flemish.25 Van de Woestijne continued to describe de
Kalle, a frequent visitor to de Praetere's studio in the Patershol, as suffering from a
persecution complex and as subject to nocturnal hallucinations.
Franz Hellens later encountered De Bruycker and de Kalle in the kitchen of Emile van
Vooren, an eccentric caretaker at the University.26 Hellens made these unusual
meetings at van Vooren's the subject of a short story, "La Cuisine des Fous" [The
Fool's Kitchen]:
The artist occupied a conspicuous seat in the caretaker's kitchen. Mr. Charles
admired him with the naiveté of a child before a priest, although the privileged
one didn't appear to care, and contented himself to find the heat excellent, the
cigars fine, the place comfortable and profitable. His mobile anteater nose
seemed ceaselessly to seek the sensual scent of things. In the overheated
atmosphere of this kitchen, where the animal vapors of the musty grease of the
food melded with his tracker's instincts, he made thousands of studies solely
with the appearance of warming himself and chatting. The walls were covered
with unfinished sketches, the crazy burden of which neither the simplicity of the
caretaker nor the senility of his dog respected. The caretaker undertook to sell
the drawings, they were behind the cell, in a junk room, in boxes piled high with
studies. Collectors came from afar! and Mr. Charles said proudly,ÔI work for
my artists!'27
It is around this time that De Bruycker discovered the art of etching and with etching he
found a means of amalgamating his random sketches and studies. In 1905 he stumbled
upon the etchings of the Ghent artist Albert Baertsoen in the Ghent Museum of Fine
Art.28 De Bruycker recalled, "It was a revelation! My wild enthusiasm for this process
was immediate and irresistible."29 In Baertsoen De Bruycker found precedent for his
own moody images of the old quarters of Ghent [fig. 7]. De Bruycker found an adept to
instruct him in the art of etching in the painter Fritz van Loo. Van Loo, who had also
been a student of Jean-Joseph Delvin and Louis Tijtgadt at the Ghent Academy, resided
in the old Dominican cloister, the Pand (not to be confused with the Carmelite Pand at
the Patershol previously discussed).30 De Bruycker had his plates printed in Elsene
(Ixelles in French, a quarter in Brussels) by the Van Campenhout firm and they were
often published by the distinguished fine arts bookstore Maison Dietrich, also in
De Bruycker's early etchings, dating from 1906 until the outbreak of the First World
War, concern four primary themes: the artist's haunts in and around the Patershol; the
open-air flea markets with their rough, low-life population; the cheap sections of the
theater; and some of the historic sites of old Ghent. De Bruycker unfailingly shows us
these sites swarming with urchins and the working poor. His etching and drypoint
Confrère [Colleague, cat. 1], 1906, for example, shows the lanky Cies de Kalle
drawing in a den, probably in the Patershol. Many of the street and market scenes can
still be located today.32 Ruelle (Gand) [Alley (Ghent), cat. 2] and Ruelle (Patershol)
[Alley (Patershol), cat. 4] may both look down Haringsteeg, from slightly different
vantage points near the intersection with Ballenstraat. The gutter in the center of the
street, probably an open sewer in De Bruycker's time, leads our eye to the ominous
(and in Ruelle (Gand) exaggerated) hulk of the antithetical Castle of the Counts. In
Veergrepe [cat. 5, visible on the wall of De Bruycker's studio in his portrait of Frans
Masereel of 1909, fig. 8] we see a courtyard behind shabby dwellings from across the
river Leie.33 The streetside access is just visible in the upper left. A period photograph
shows that De Bruycker did not bother to compensate for the fact that the image would
be reversed when printed [fig. 9]. Although this view of washing and morning chores is
clearly not contrived, De Bruycker's impulse for amused or purposeful exaggeration
places him solidly in the realm of caricature, however stringently he was to reject this
notion. We can imagine that De Bruycker was ill at ease with the term "caricaturist"
because it may well have militated against his striving for respect as an artist in the eyes
of the bourgeois Belgian public who were already somewhat ill-disposed to printmaking
as an art form, let alone to caricature.34 De Bruycker is to Ghent perhaps what the
slightly older and more emphatically political artist Heinrich Zille was to Berlin. Both
artists give us more intimate glimpses of daily life in early modern Europe than was
afforded by many of their colleagues who were more in step with the general contours
of modernism. Within a few pages Karel van de Woestijne found it possible to speak of
De Bruycker's art in terms of sarcasm, pessimism, nihilism, skepticism, irony, and
caricature.35 To a devout figure such as van de Woestijne (who, for example, had
brought the Sint-Martens-Latem painter Valerius de Sadeleer back into the arms of the
church following the latter's confession of agnosticism and sympathy for anarchism), De
Bruycker's wry and unorthodox renderings may have seemed to smack of lack of
That De Bruycker was sensitive to the ironies of depicting "picturesque misery" (to use
Mussche's phrase) is made clear by his 1907 etching, Rolweg Brugge [The Rolweg in
Bruges, cat. 14].37 In this unforgettable image De Bruycker mocks artists who create
considerable clutter in an alley in a poor neighborhood in Bruges with all their gear and
subject the local poor to their scrutiny. They focus all their attention on the emaciated
mother and child and the urchins in rags who seem to be outnumbered by artists. De
Bruycker does not hesitate to ridicule himself in this scene; he is the lanky artist at the
left, while his heavyset colleague seen from the back is no less than Valerius de
Sadeleer, one of the finest painters of the Sint-Martens-Latem group.38
The open air markets and cheap sections of the theater (called "Paradise" or "Owls'
Roost" since they are high up in the theater, see cat. 8, 9, 11) were among De
Bruycker's most fertile arenas for studying his fellow citizens of Ghent [Gentenaars].39
His method must have been to compile numerous quick sketches (probably discretely
on bits of paper concealed in his hand), such as those in the volume of mounted studies
in the Royal Library in Brussels [figs. 10, 11].40 These loose studies could then be
worked into larger drawings and etchings. As with his street scenes, the topographical
description of the market scenes is fairly accurate. The settings for the fish market at the
Sint-Veerleplein (where, incidently, Jules de Praetere's father was the auctioneer in the
fish market) [cat. 3, compare with fig. 3] and the markets set up on the paved area
surrounding the church of Sint-Jacobs [cat. 10, 12, 13] are readily recognizable today,
although De Bruycker took some liberties in depicting these scenes.41 For example, in
Jour de Marché à Gand the verticality of the tower of the Castle of the Counts in the
background, which is seen under restoration, has been exaggerated.
Karel van de Woestijne gives considerable attention to De Bruycker's market scenes,
doubtless recalling them from his own first-hand experience. He lists with relish the
variety of humanity and rummage visible in one such composition:
Long greedy fingers weigh strange keys, they lift up iron roasters in which rust
has eaten decorative arabesques, they handle fire pokers from Damascus, or
simply a pair of not-too- corroded flat irons, or else a rare set of eighteenth-
century novels, or sixteenth-century pamphlets bound in gray, the complete
works of Buffon or a collection of fashion prints, or perhaps a holy relic, a bed
pan, an imperial portrait, a dishcloth to polish the stove, civic guard equipment,
a lamp, a revolver, a medieval town ledger, old porcelain, worn out clothes
(about which there are many questions), musical instruments or a can of
prehistoric shoe polish.42
However, after reveling in the multiplicity of the market scenes, van de Woestijne
returns to them some pages later in order to elevate them as a form of "holy image," a
"beautiful image of inner sympathy," evoked by the simple figures whose old hands have
worked so hard and asked for so little.43 This empathy is certainly something De
Bruycker was aiming for, although it is unlikely that he would have ever considered
himself a maker of holy images.
Civic monuments also figure in De Bruycker's pre-war etchings, but as usual they writhe
with humanity on the street level. Among his most admired etchings of Ghent landmarks
is his rendering of the beautiful baroque building De Fluitspeler [The Fluteplayer} or Het
Vliegend Hert [The Flying Deer], home of the noted early eighteenth-century anatomist
Jan Palfijn. This 1669 building is shown with the adjacent house De werken van
barmhartigheid [The Works of Mercy], also of the seventeenth-century. Both buildings
are ornamented with relief carvings, those on De Fluitspeler are in terra cotta (the
cartouche in the gable shows a fluteplayer).44 These homes are nos. 77 and 79 on the
Kraanlei, in the immediate vicinity of the Sint-Veerleplein, the Castle of the Counts, and
the Patershol. The buildings' elegant baroque gables and friezes contrast with a hurly-
burly street scene below [cat. 15], much as in De Bruycker's etching of the Castle of the
Counts [Rond het s'Graven Kasteel te Gent, cat. 16] the medieval mountain of masonry
contrasts with all sorts of Rabelaisian activities. Nowhere is De Bruycker closer to
Goya than in Rond het s'Graven Kasteel te Gent. In fact the central figure on the
platform wagging something seemingly disrespectfully in the face of the monolithic
testimony to time and history against which he is silhouetted might have been a
conscious tribute to Goya's caprichos, or perhaps to his Bobalicón, the grinning giant
who dances and clacks his castanets.
We know that De Bruycker was especially amused by the ironies inspired by the
contrast of pretentious buildings, with all they signify, and their mundane human
occupants. When speaking to Albert Guislain in the early 1930s about his intentions to
do some work in Brussels, De Bruycker naturally gravitated to a discussion of the
immense Law Courts, the Palais de Justice (fig. 12). Guislain had published a book on
the Palais de Justice, which he called "the Mammoth."45 In fact the Palais is among the
largest buildings erected in the nineteenth century. To understand De Bruycker's
anecdote that follows it helps to remember that the enormous edifice is erected on the
site of earlier gallows and that it overlooks the Marolles, the poorer quarters in Brussels:
I worked there. Not enough. I would love to have drawn the Palais de Justice.
You called it the Mammoth? The terraced architecture of the Mammoth has
always tempted me. It is magnificent, this immense temple steeped in light. This
piling up of forms, the terracing of stones and balconies, what splendor! What a
thing to do, as we say. I went there. I searched. The good people of the rue
haute and the rue des minimes [in the Marolles] offered me the hospitality of
their lofts and mansards. But luck was not with me. There was always an
obstacle between me and your Palais de Justice. Regrettable! And the outer
hall! What an etching! What a drawing! My wife and I managed, quite by
accident one day, to get into a courtroom. A case was being tried. A housewife
was disputing her butcher's bill. She claimed that she was given too much bone
and fat, and not enough meat. Life is droll. And in this formidable basilica such a
little comedy. It was human, too human.46
However, sometimes De Bruycker's forcing together of the anecdotal and the sublime
weighed more heavily on the anecdotal side, resulting in an image whose authority is
undercut, but whose ability to amuse is not. This is the case with several etchings of
1914 concerning renovations on the Ghent Belfry, such as De man van t'belfort (The
Man from the Belfry (cat. 17) and even De Bruycker's much acclaimed La montage du
Dragon sur le beffroi de Gand (The Mounting of the Dragon atop the Ghent Belfry, cat.
18). In the former, workers on a skimpy scaffold teetering over Ghent are buzzed by a
monoplane. The figure in the foreground is De Bruycker himself laboring away on the
composition, and the figure mounting the ladder with open mouth is De Bruycker's
patron, the architect René van Herrewege.47 The Montage du Dragon shows the fervor
surrounding the events of January 8, 1913, when the renovated dragon was hoisted
back up to the pinnacle of the belfry in preparation for the World's Fair.48 De Bruycker
anticipated that this etching would even surpass his highly regarded Rond het s'Graven
Kasteel te Gent. On January 21, 1914, he wrote to René van Herrewege:
The first state is almost finished and I expect a result superior to the Château
des comtes [Rond het s'Graven Kasteel te Gent]. Excuse my vanity! I have
been scraping like a madman without a break for two weeks. And I can have
this hope! I am biting it right now. I am proceeding differently, slowly, with an
etch of six to twelve hours. This etching must be less material, more vision that
the Château des comtes. I repeat, I have much hope and tenacity or obstinacy
and when I weaken, I descend to my wine cellar and open one of those bottles
... not of nitric acid!49
In fact, Montage du Dragon was a great success, both in Ghent and in the 1914 Venice
Bi‘nnale. Chabot reports that German and Italian firms sought the rights for reproducing
the image, and that the Emperor Victor Emmanu‘l purchased a complete set of De
Bruycker's exhibited etchings.50
In the large plates discussed above, La Maison Jean palfijn, Rond het s'Graven Kasteel
te Gent and Montage du Dragon, De Bruycker achieved considerable virtuosity as an
etcher; these plates are rich and chiaroscural, and though complex they stop short of
being fussy. In many respects they resemble the etchings of the Anglo-Belgian artist
Frank Brangwyn (fig. 13), who was to prove a valuable friend during De Bruycker's
years in London during the First World War.
With the outbreak of war, De Bruycker joined a large expatriate Belgian population in
London. Other Belgian artists relocated in England included Albert Baertsoen, Emile
Claus, Hippolyte Daeye, Albert Delstanche, Valerius de Sadeleer, Emile Fabry, Charles
Mertens, George Minne, Isidore Opsomer, Gustave-Max Stevens, and Gustave van de
Woestijne.51 Among this community of Belgians in exile De Bruycker met and married
Rapha‘lle De Leyn, also a native of Ghent.52
De Bruycker took up residence at Fitzgerald Avenue 9 and set up shop at Fitzroy
Street 8, where Whistler had moved his studio in 1896.53 In a letter published by
Chabot, De Bruycker complained of the changes imposed on his usual mode of work:
Here one had to stay in the studio--it was forbidden to work in the street. If you
looked too earnestly at a bridge, a statue, or building, you would be suspect!
And as if that weren't enough, there was the charming, foggy, rainy climate and
formidable distances. It wasn't easy.54
Nonetheless, De Bruycker managed to produce a few plates of London scenes (cat.
23), but they were the exception.55 As Chabot, Karel van de Woestijne, and the artist
himself noted, this imposed internalization and the artist's distance from the actual events
of the war resulted in unanticipated and novel works. As van de Woestijne put it, while
in England De Bruycker:
mostly lived in a hallucinatory atmosphere, this distance expanded the events,
lent them a synthetic-symbolic significance that we, remaining in the country, did
not yet understand.56
Or in De Bruycker's own words:
I worked well enough. I had, without hearing a shot, made drawings in keeping
with the war. Strange works that opened a new horizon for me in the future.57
Of course the war had an enormous and complex impact upon the arts (the Imperial
War Museum in London has over 5000 works by artists among the allied forces
alone).58 It is remarkable to consider the breadth of reaction to the war. While De
Bruycker was at work on his large visionary but traditional etchings in London, the
Dadaists were (by 1916) living out their first wave of revolutionary performances and
utterances in Zurich. Ghent-educated woodcut artist Frans Masereel (fig. 8), a friend of
De Bruycker's, spent the war years in Switzerland to avoid serving in the Belgian
military. While in Switzerland Masereel "became noted for stark woodcuts with pacifist
and leftist themes, published in new, pacifist Swiss journals such as La Feuille in
Geneva."59 Many artist from all camps were, at the outset, enthusiastic and optimistic
about the war, but through personal experiences with the horrors of battle they were
quickly disillusioned or battle-scarred in more profound ways. August Macke, Franz
Marc, Antonio Sant'Elia, and Umberto Boccioni were killed in battle. Raymond
Duchamp-Villon and Roger de La Fresnaye died of war-related illnesses. Georges
Braque, Guillaume Apollinaire, and Oskar Kokoschka were wounded, and Ernst
Ludwig Kirchner suffered from nervous disorders resulting from the war.60
The war can be seen as a crucible in which pre-war impulses, the authority of intense
personal experience, and various reactions to war and the specific social and political
evils it exposed interacted and propelled the arts along the main trajectories of
modernism. While De Bruycker participated in this arena, it was in a personal and
idiosyncratic way. His earlier immersion in the microcosm of Ghent was superseded by
apocalyptic images of war infused with Flemish cultural lore, frequently of a Bruegelian
caste. This upwelling seems like a rallying of a cultural genotype in the face of threatened
extinction. De Bruycker was not alone in turning to popular elements of his native
culture in time of war; Kasimir Malevich's wartime images made reference to Russian
"Lubok" folk prints, just as Raoul Dufy's made reference to French "Images d'Épinal"
folk prints.61 De Bruycker's startling wartime images yielded to a re-immersion in the
microcosm of Ghent after the war, sometimes with a lingering visionary edge. Ultimately,
De Bruycker's apocalyptic reaction to the Great War as he saw it from afar proved to
be quite different from his reaction to the second German occupation of Belgium of
1940, which he witnessed in person.
Nineteen sixteen was a year of explosive work for De Bruycker, as seven of his eleven
images of war themes were produced and an eighth appeared in its first state. These
plates were very large, all but two of them over a half meter in one dimension. Two
letters of 1916 from Frank Brangwyn to De Bruycker (both in a private collection) set
the tone for this production. Brangwyn was primarily involved in making propagandistic
lithographs and posters during the war and some of his etchings from this period were
enormous, over a meter in one dimension (fig. 14). The first letter is dated 13 August
and concerns De Bruycker's need for large acid baths:
Dear Sir,
Mr. Lambotte has asked me to send you a large bath--I will let you have it early
this week as the large baths I have are made of wood this hot weather has
made them leak so I hope you will pardon the delay in sending it. I hope it will
aid your purpose and that you will let me have the great pleasure of seeing the
etchings you are now working upon.
I have long admired your work. It is splendid. I am glad to hear that you are
producing plates inspired by the War. With all good wishes
Believe me my dear sir,
Frank Brangwyn
And the second of 12 September:
Dear Sir,
I had written you a letter last week which I forgot to post and which I now
enclose as it contains the names of printers.
I think after seeing your proofs that Golding & Co. No. 2 on the list will be the
right man for you. I must congratulate you on the noble and fine plates you have
made more especially I admire the large one of Death ringing the bell--It is
splendid and if printed on better paper and by a good printer it will be splendid.
I have taken the liberty of giving your address to an American Library which is
collecting plates and lithographs connected with the war. I hope you will hear
from them.
With all good wishes
Yours sincerely,
Frank Brangwyn
p.s. Regarding a publisher I will give you a letter of introduction to one or two,
but as you know the taste in England is more for the pretty than for the noble
and large things in art.
"Death ringing the bell" refers to De Bruycker's masterpiece among the wartime plates,
Weer klepte de Dood over Vlaanderenland (Again Death Tolled over Flanders, cat.
19). Certainly the prospects for Belgium must have looked grim in 1916, by which time
two of the three battles of Ieper had been fought, establishing the arc of the Salient, the
demarkation of the allied front and the locus of horrific trench and ultimately chemical
warfare. In De Bruycker's print, Death appears as an enormous skeleton in hobnailed
boots who, sitting astride the masonry towers of a church, has plucked the bell from the
belfry and rings with it a death knell over Flanders.62 Below in the wintry Bruegelian
snowscape survivors arrive in a long funeral march laden down with caskets in a
passage that, with the very notion of Death ringing a bell, recalls Bruegel's Triumph of
Death (Madrid, Prado). Death has strung up the church's priest, whose demonic
replacement and incense-toting assistant arrive from below.
In 1917 an exhibition of Belgian art was held in Rotterdam. De Bruycker's work figured
prominently and the reviewer of the exhibition for the Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant
singled out the image of the Death of Flanders. For this reviewer De Bruycker's print
evoked not only Bosch and Bruegel, but also the figure of Ulenspiegel (usually
translated as "owl glass," a heroic rogue and prankster). The legend of Ulenspiegel,
originally an early sixteenth-century German text, was readily adapted and re-printed in
the Low Countries. In the editions printed in Bruges and Ghent Ulenspiegel's place of
birth and/or death is given in various Flemish cities. Ultimately the text served as a point
of departure for the Belgian author Charles De Coster in the mid-nineteenth century. De
Coster's La légende et les aventures héroïques, joyeuses et glorieuses d'Ulenspiegel et
de Lamme Goedzak au pays de Flandres et ailleurs (The Legend and Heroic, Joyous,
and Glorious Adventures of Ulenspiegel and Lamme Goedzak in Flanders and
Elsewhere) of 1867, although written in French, is an important text for the Flemish
Movement because it helped solidify a sense of Flemish identity in the newly formed
Belgian state. De Coster's novel, set in the sixteenth-century, heroicizes the base but
clever Ulenspiegel at the expense of the clergy and temporal powers, and it allows a
witty Flemish peasant to triumph over considerable odds, specifically another occupying
army in Flemish history, the army of the Duke of Alba serving Philip II of Spain.63 It is
this Ulenspiegel, the Ulenspiegel of De Coster, to which the reviewer for the Nieuwe
Rotterdamsche Courant refers.64
Evocations of earlier Flemish culture, from the "spirit of Ulenspiegel," to the paintings of
the fifteenth-century "Flemish Primitives," abound in the De Bruycker literature. This
enthusiasm for legitimizing Flemish heritage through the achievements of the fifteenth and
sixteenth-centuries was not limited to De Bruycker or his apologists--it was a
widespread phenomenon that found extensive expression, for example, in the
nineteenth-century Flemish Renaissance Revival in architecture.65 Belgian symbolist
artists and writers had previously drawn upon the precedent of early Flemish painters,
having been especially attracted to the simultaneously spiritual and realistic qualities of
their paintings.66 For example, symbolist artist Fernand Khnopff lectured on the art of
van Eyck, Memling, and Metsys, and symbolist writer Maurice Maeterlinck found
inspiration for one of his most important plays, Les Aveugles (The Blind), in a painting
by Pieter Bruegel of The Blind Leading the Blind (Naples, Museo-Gallerie Nazionale di
The fervor for early Flemish art received its most significant impetus with the remarkable
1902 Bruges exhibition Les Primitifs Flamands (The Flemish Primitives). This exhibition
inspired a lengthy article by van de Woestijne, who described himself as having been an
adherent of Ruysbroeck mysticism in his Patershol and early Sint-Martens-Latem
days.68 Jan van Ruusbroec (Ruusbroek or Ruysbroeck) was a fourteenth-century
mystic of Brabant, active at the hermitage in Groenendael near Brussels, whose
teachings are often considered an important precursor to the Brothers of the Common
Life. There are reports of van de Woestijne reading from Ruysbroeck's writings to his
friends (presumably Valerius De Sadeleer, George Minne, Gustave van de Woestijne,
and others) in Sint-Martens-Latem.69 Another Flemish author, Stijn Streuvels, evoked
Bruegel and Ulenspiegel in the diary he kept during the War, usually to seek comparison
with some horrendous event.70 References to the Flemish Primitives themselves were
almost second nature in the circles frequented by De Bruycker. De Bruycker once
remarked that he understood Rogier van der Weyden better after seeing a nun in the
Sint-Niklaaskerk with her broad, white headdress.71 Karel van de Woestijne took
pride in pointing out the presumed birth place of "Flemish Primitive" Petrus Christus
around Baarle near Sint-Martens-Latem; Gustave van de Woestijne described Mrs.
Minne as seeming to come right out of a Flemish Primitive painting, and both De
Bruycker and Karel van de Woestijne had reproductions of paintings by the "primitives"
in their work areas.72 We can see van Eyck's famous portrait, The Man with a Pink
(Staatliche Museen zu Berlin), in an exaggerated view of De Bruycker's studio in the
Pand in a print of 1932 (fig. 15). Gustave van de Woestijne gives an intriguing
description of his brother's writing area in Sint-Martens-Latem, which included James
Ensor's etching The Entry of Christ into Brussels; a drawing by George Minne of Jesus
with the Chalice; a portrait of the poet and editor of the Dutch literary journal De
Nieuwe Gids (The New Guide), Willem Kloos; and a reproduction of Hugo van der
Goes' late fifteenth-century Portinari Altarpiece.73 Gustave's own striking paintings of
the Latem peasantry also bear comparison to the precedent of van der Goes.
The Belgian enthusiasm for the Flemish Renaissance serves to introduce Jean de
Bosschère, one of De Bruycker's critics, who also left Belgium to wait out the war
years, primarily in London. De Bosschère had many talents: he was an author and critic
who spent his later years in Paris in the circle of Antonin Artaud nd André Saurés; he
was a talented artist who illustrated many of his own literary texts in styles that can be
loosely associated with the graphic art of Aubrey Beardsley (fig. 16) and later the
surrealists; he was an intimate and important correspondent with Belgian poet Max
Elskamp; and, what is germane to this discussion, he authored several early texts on
various aspects of fifteenth and sixteenth-century Flemish painting and sculpture.74
These include a monograph on the Antwerp Renaissance painter Quentin Metsys
(1907), one of the first studies of Renaissance sculpture in Antwerp (1909), and a long
article on Bruegel and "our taste in painting" for the Parisian review L'occident
(1913).75 De Bosschère reviewed De Bruycker's works in two wartime group
exhibitions in London and he penned a longer article on the artist in 1918.76 At this time
De Bosschère was still fairly steeped in a Walter Pater-like estheticism. He took
pleasure in describing the etcher's trade as resembling that of a tinker and he evoked the
French etcher Charles Cotett's description of biting the plate as "delectable cookery!
[cuisine delectable!]." De Bosschère conjures up an image of the etcher as a sort of
necromancer, lost to the real world "like those who seek the philosopher's stone."77
Without making reference to Bosch or Bruegel ("great names cast a shadow," De
Bosschère notes), De Bosschère finds in De Bruycker a remarkable visionary,
especially in the great wartime prints such as Weer klepte de Dood over
Vlaanderenland and Kultur! (cat. 19, 20), and not simply someone who makes clever
use of the fantastic.
Although De Bosschère nowhere spouts a nationalistic or fervently Flemish phrase (he
was, after all, francophone, despite his upbringing in Lier, near Antwerp), it is significant
that during his wartime stay in London he produced his lovely books, Christmas Tales
of Flanders (1917) and Beasts and Men (1918, a collection of Flemish folk tales).78
Both works were extensively illustrated by the author. As with De Bruycker, De
Bosschère's drawings have been related to the spirit of Ulenspiegel, and described as
satirical and grotesque.79 Although we do not know exactly what works De Bruycker
refers to (probably the illustrations for the two books of Flemish tales), we know that he
admired De Bosschère's watercolors when he saw them later in an exhibition in
London. He described them as "extraordinarily interesting. Flemish proverbs and tales
so nicely interpreted!"80 While in general their careers are highly dissimilar, during the
war years De Bruycker and his critic De Bosschère had a brief convergence in which
they mustered strength and working material by evoking their cultural heritage in the face
of war.
However much we detect Bruegel in the clattering hoards of skeletons, in long-legged
reapers, or simply in the theme of the Triumph of Death, De Bruycker's war images are
also works of startling originality. In addition to the unforgettable image of Death over
Flanders, De Bruycker invented a parade of death ironically titled, in German, Kultur!
("Civilization!," cat. 20), which is dominated by a cannon, a behemoth of enormous
proportions straddled by an invincible skeleton who stares, unscathed, down the
smoking barrel. De Bruycker's friend Peter Bonnel (who occasionally posed for the
figures of fallen soldiers in De Bruycker's wartime etchings) assisted in the etching of this
enormous plate. The only plate of adequate size that could be located was zinc. De
Bruycker was only familiar with the technique of etching copper, and the plate was
nearly destroyed when the acid-resistant ground started to lift in the acid bath. The two
immediately plunged the plate in water to halt the effect of the acid, leaving only a lightly
etched plate, which may explain why Kultur! could only sustain a small edition.81 In
The Harvest (La Moisson, cat. 21) Death and the Kaiser look on approvingly at the
good labor of the grim reaper. Exquisitely cynical, Death chews on a shaft of wheat
whose fecund head, silhouetted against the burning sun, offers the promise of future
harvests. The outsized face that stares out from the dark of the windmill seems to be a
direct quotation from Bruegel's Dulle Griet (Antwerp, Museum Mayer van den Berghe),
but it is probably just the remains of an abandoned composition.
De Bruycker must have agonized over the grisly reports of trench warfare, which he set
down in his La Tranchée (The Trench, cat. 22), but in De Slechte Maere (The Grim
Reaper, cat. 24) we encounter an even more sinister aspect of the Great War, the use
of chemical warfare. The etching De Slechte Maere also bears the titles De dood van
Ieper (The Death of Ieper); Ieperen de slechte maere (Ieper, the Grim Reaper), De
Speelman Kwam Langs Ieper (The Minstrel came along Ieper); and De ongeluksvogel
(The Unlucky). In the background is the great conflagration that consumed the medieval
Ieper cloth hall following heavy bombardment on November 22, 1914, not long before
Ieper was totally destroyed (fig. 17). De Bruycker has conflated the 1914 attack with
the second of the three battles of Ieper, in which the Germans used chlorine gas. This is
indicated by the gas mask and bomb labeled "GAZ" in the lower left, and perhaps by
the demon who is perched on the Reaper's scythe and is about to hurl a bomb. A
disillusioned German soldier and writer, Rudolph Binding, described the impending fall
of Ieper:
The effects of the successful gas attack were horrible. I am not pleased with the
idea of poisoning men. Of course, the entire world will rage about it first and
then imitate us. All the dead lie on their backs, with clenched fists; the whole
field is yellow. They say that Ieper must fall now. One can see it burning--not
without a pang for the beautiful city. Langemarck is a heap of rubbish."82
The focus of the composition is the striding figure of the Reaper, dragging his huge
scythe and with a clock surmounted by a skull on his back. This Death Clock may be a
sort of rebus for the Flemish word "doodsklok," which means "death knell." The
reaper's entourage includes assorted demonic creatures in a clutter of German helmets.
The figure bringing up the rear carries several crowns in his cowl and seems to have an
ermine robe, the dark tufts appearing in the form of demons. The overall form of this
demonic emperor, as well as the remarkable lankiness of the main figure, can both find
formal analogues in Bruegel's Temptation of St. Anthony in the Brussels museum.
Here we can return briefly to De Coster's Ulenspiegel. In book three, Ulenspiegel
arrives at the cathedral in Ieper to recruit soldiers from the local population to fight
against Alba with "les Gueux" (the opposition, who had accepted the derogatory term
"the beggars" as honorific). Significantly, when De Bruycker later designed a headpiece
for this chapter of De Coster's novel he returned to the essential features of Weer klepte
de Dood over Vlaanderenland and De Slechte Maere: Death, with a scythe on his
back, tolls the death knell while in the background a stream of figures pours forth from a
church portal, another crowd carries gallows on their backs, a nd the reaper goes about
his task (fig. 18). The specific wartime imagery involving Ieper in De Coster's text and
De Bruycker's later return to his wartime composition in illustrating this text suggest that
De Bruycker may have had Ulenspiegel in mind when he first worked out the
compositions of the Grim Reaper and of Death over Flanders.
The exhibited impression of De Slechte Maere was printed by Goulding Ltd.
(recommended to De Bruycker by Brangwyn--the firm takes its name from Frederick
Goulding, one of Whistler's printers).83 It was dedicated to the artist's wife, twice
inscribed, and after the title, the dates "1914-1918 1939-1940" have been added, in
clear allusion to the second occupation of Belgium by German forces.
De Bruycker's return to Ghent in 1919 seems to have been bittersweet. In London he
had not only exhibited at the Imperial War Museum in South Kensington, but the
director of the Victoria and Albert Museum had tried to convince the artist to remain in
England after the war.84 As we have seen, De Bruycker was chagrined to be
welcomed back in Ghent as the tapissier, but it was not long before he achieved
considerable recognition. He was named a Knight in the Order of Léopold in 1921; he
had an important (and successful) exhibition of 154 works at the Galerie Giroux in
Brussels in 1922, and in this year his work was exhibited at the Chicago Art Institute
and elsewhere in the United States; in 1923 the Belgian State purchased two of his
drawings; he was sought out for a teaching post at the Hoger Instituut voor Schone
Kunsten (Higher Institute of Fine Art) in Antwerp, which he reluctantly accepted, and
he was named a correspondent of the Royal Academy; in 1925 he became a full
member of the Royal Academy; and in 1927 he received the national prize for fine
The post-war years, which saw the arrival of a second daughter in 1919 (a first having
been born before the war from an earlier union), were a period of considerable
adjustment for the artist. De Bruycker was not at home in the first studio he found, but
was much happier with one that he rented late in 1921 in the Dominican Pand (a setting
that occasionally appears in the later etchings).86 This converted cell must have
resembled his old haunt in the Patershol and, like the cloister at the Patershol, a number
of other artists also gravitated to the Dominican Pand between the World Wars.87
Nineteen twenty-one is also the year in which De Bruycker began a remarkable series
of etchings and drawings of craggy old figures from Ghent, notably of a certain Jacobus
Alijn (cat. 25, 27) and, a few years later, of knitters and tailors (cat. 28, 29), and
ultimately of himself (cat. 31, 41, 45). The 1921 etchings and drawings of Jacobus Alijn
were anticipated only by the etched portrait of De Bruycker's old friend de Kalle,
Patershol artiste, of 1919 (fig. 19). These sinewy but dignified figures, including de Kalle
and the artist himself, are survivors and by the authority of their age and their evident life
of hard work they testify to the weight of tradition as much as do De Bruycker's scenes
of the old city. Taken together these studies as well as his return to some of his previous
subjects, such as the markets of Flanders, convey a sense of closure that bridges De
Bruycker's absence during the war, and that allows him to affirm the essentially
unchanging qualities of his cultural landscape.88
De Bruycker all but stopped making prints from 1922-1924. 1922, however, saw the
completion of a new edition of Charles De Coster's Ulenspiegel for which he
contributed designs for a series of woodcut illustrations (fig. 18; cat. 26a, 26b).89 De
Bruycker must have been at home with this commission. Chabot notes that one of the
editors, R. Sand of Brussels, was also organizer of the Graphics Salon (Grafisch Salon)
in which De Bruycker had often participated.90
As we have seen, De Bruycker himself had been associated with the Ulenspiegel theme
early on. In his 1909 text "La Cuisine des Fous" (The Fool's Kitchen), Franz Hellens
evoked not only the figure of de Kalle discussed above, he also described an artist
(further described as "the caricaturist") with the nickname "Ulenspiegel" - certainly this
was De Bruycker.91 The Ulenspiegel theme was everywhere visible in Belgium in the
form of broadsheets, periodicals, illustrated editions, and Flemish translations of De
Coster's text, as well as in musical works.92
De Bruycker's illustrations for Ulenspiegel are important because they allow us to
identify certain recurrent pictorial themes encountered elsewhere in his oeuvre
specifically with the Ulenspiegel theme. This is the case with the headpiece for Book III
and de Slechte Maere already discussed. Another of the illustrations for Ulenspiegel
looks forward to a composition worked out in more detail some six years later. The
frontispiece of volume 2 of De Coster's Ulenspiegel (cat. 26b) is an early formulation of
Kermesse, of 1928 (cat. 34). Also titled Mendiants (Beggars), Kermesse has become
so mannered that it is difficult to read. A giant vagabond with two instruments
associated traditionally with lust and low life, the bagpipes and accordion, leads a tangle
of beggars beset with tokens of gambling, superstition, and religious devotion.93 As in
the book illustration, a caged owl, emblematic of Ulenspiegel, hangs near the
vagabond's elbow. We can enumerate further details but their cumulative effect does
little to help our understanding of the image. It might be argued that this is an
intentionally enigmatic restatement of Bosch's provocative painting of a wanderer
(variously titled the Peddler, the Landloper, and Everyman, Rotterdam, Museum
Boymans-van Beuningen), which has proven to be highly resistant to interpretation. It
must be conceded, however, that in some of De Bruycker's mature works, such as
Kermesse, in which he seems to try to revive the unleashing of imagination rooted in
Flemish lore that the First World War brought on, he succeeds primarily in parodying
himself, giving some credence to Marijnissen's quip that De Bruycker is best when he is
least himself.94
De Bruycker's later architectural studies include a group of large and imposing etchings
whose core is a series Belgian and French cathedrals, and a group of much more
intimate views, primarily of old Ghent. We have already seen that De Bruycker once
spoke of his wish to etch the ostentatious Palais de Justice in Brussels. He had already
stated this ambition in a letter of 1913:
"In a bit I plan a visit to Brussels to study some of the sites I have long admired:
Ste. Gudule, La Bourse, Le Palais de Justice--three different autocrats, but
autocrats nonetheless--deserving a bath in the acid! What a superb and nearly
virgin city for an indiscreet and somewhat artistic eye!95
De Bruycker paid partial tribute to the cathedral of Ste.-Gudule and the Bourse (the
stock exchange) more through implication than description. In his 1925 etching Le
Vieux Bruxelles (Old Brussels, cat. 30) the cathedral sulks in the distance, personifying
the centuries in the face of transient events much like the Castle of the Counts in De
Bruycker's pre-war etchings. As De Bosschère put it, in discussing De Bruycker's
approach to cities:
One doesn't have to be an archaeologist to realize that accumulations of
buildings begin to live in the course of many years. Then an indescribable
connection develops between people and things. This connection consists of
thousands of nuances, which can be detected and observed through these
feelings.96 De Bosschère was correct to detect an intangible quality in the
relationship between old cities and their residents in De Bruycker's work. This
puts De Bruycker in the otherwise unlikely company of Giovanni Battista
Piranesi and Charles Meryon, who also etched ancient cities (Rome and Paris,
respectively) whose ruinous age is enlivened by the random activity of their
current population.
De Bruycker's busy etching of the vicinity of the stock exchange, Bruxelles, Jour de
Bourse (Brussels, Stock Exchange Day, cat. 40) does not show the exchange building.
While it is difficult to reconstruct, this image of 1930 appears to be a view from a
window within the Bourse itself, with Mausstraat to the left, looking across Anspachlaan
to Van Praetstraat. If this is correct, then the image has been reversed in the process of
etching. Despite his stated intentions, De Bruycker has preferred to turn his back on the
enormous neoclassical stock exchange to depict the riot of advertising and the turmoil of
the populace at this convergence of six streets. Unlike Ensor's somewhat analogous
drawings preparatory to his Entry of Christ into Brussels, the texts in this image do not
offer access to a personal vision or subversive allegory, rather, they and the frenetic
activity around them affirm a tangible pandemonium.97
In 1925, the year after his election to the Royal Academy, De Bruycker travelled to
Paris to visit his friend Frans Masereel. De Bruycker was somewhat covetous of
Masereel's fame, won (to De Bruycker's mind) through Masereel's decision to locate
himself near the hub of activity in Paris.98 Apparently it was Masereel who inspired De
Bruycker to take on a series of architectural studies.99 This took the form of a group of
large and complex images of cathedrals. The plates are of the cathedrals of Paris
(1926), Antwerp (1929, cat. 38), Rouen (1930, cat. 39), Bourges (1931), and Amiens
(1932). These, and some of his other city views, such as La Porte St. Denis, Paris (Le
Roy 154) offer a more splendid civic face than we are used to in De Bruycker's art, and
it is possible that these were in fact done to cultivate patronage outside of Ghent.
However, he made no concession to his proclivity to populate his city scenes with
masses of common people at street level, and he exercised a critical eye in sizing up
these new subjects, stating for example that Rouen is "a curious and almost too
picturesque city that, in my opinion, lacks character, structure, and force."100 These
imposing plates seem to have nearly exhausted De Bruycker. By 1930 he complained in
a letter of the weary and taut tendons he developed while making his large plate of
Perhaps the most successful post-war works by De Bruycker are his intimate scenes of
his immediate environs and of his most enduring source of subject matter, the
predominantly unchanged features of old Ghent. Many of these etchings bring us into the
immediate world of the artist. L' Echaugette quai St. Pierre, Gand (The Warming
Tower, Quai St. Pierre, Ghent, cat. 31 and 32) of 1925 shows a tower visible from the
artist's residence at 8 Sint-Pieterskaai (Quai St. Pierre).102 In the winter boatmen
would warm themselves at the fire in this tower.103 In the final state of this etching (cat.
32) the artist trimmed the copper plate at the bottom and the right, removing his self-
portrait in which the artist's etching hand is given exaggerated importance. It has been
proposed that the lovely views from his house and its immediate environs were in part a
result of his taking refuge in his home in reaction to his mother's long illness and death in
1928 (cat. 35, 36, 37).104 It may also be that his 1928 etchings of the Church of Sint-
Niklaas (cat. no. 33) were done from earlier drawings during this period of grief, just as
his Mendiants of 1928 was based on his earlier woodcut illustrations to Ulenspiegel.105
This period of reassessment approximately coincides with the onset of De Bruycker's
scrutiny of himself. From 1925 on he produced a remarkable series of figure studies,
including self-portraits and studies of models (clothed and unclothed). Frequently these
incorporate the trappings of the studio or flights of imagination (cat. 45, 46). A buddhist
statuette, an African mask, boxes of cigarettes, and prints and drawings by De
Bruycker can be identified among the items in his studio.106 The self-portraits that
incorporate elements from his imagination typically focus on primary aspects of his
inspiration, such as his study of around 1936 showing himself drawing compulsively
before the church of Sint-Niklaas as if he and the edifice are somehow inseparable (cat.
45). Only on rare occasions was De Bruycker satisfied to show himself unencumbered
with the minutia of his environment, such as the unusually intimate self-portrait sent to the
Venice Biennale in 1934 (cat. 41).
In 1932 De Bruycker's first of several portfolios appeared, Sites et Visions de Gand, a
collection of twenty-two etchings with a preface by Grégoire Le Roy, who would
publish a catalogue raisonné of De Bruycker's prints the following year. In the best
works in Sites et Visions De Bruycker shows that at sixty-two he was still perfecting his
skills. Plates such as Maison Bourgeoise (Bourgeois House, cat. 42), L'église St.-
Michel (The Church of St. Michael, which is next to the Dominican Pand, cat. 43), and
Le Quai de l'Ecluse (Floodgate Quay, cat. 44) reveal a renewed interest in the prints of
Baertsoen, Whistler, and Rembrandt. L'église St.-Michel is one of the few prints by De
Bruycker that makes specific reference to political issues. The plate is essentially a re-
working of the 1926 etching Tweeslachtige Stad (Schizophrenic City, also titled Petite
Ville Nerveuse, Small Anxious City, fig. 20), which was done in response to De
Bruycker's witnessing a demonstration over the language issue that had been brought to
a head by the controversial decision to make Ghent University a Flemish Language
institution. In Tweeslachtige Stad Ulenspiegel reappears in De Bruycker's work, in
Chabot's words, to kick out the "franskiljon" (pro-French or Francophone Fleming)
factions.107 Only the words "HAUTES ETUD[ES]," (advanced studies) remain in
Léglise St. Michel to evoke, however subtly, the language issue; gone is Ulenspiegel and
the reference to "Smetse Smee," an old Ghent tale about a blacksmith that was
recounted in Charles De Coster's Légendes flamandes.108
As if consciously reining in his career, De Bruycker issued two more portfolios late in
life and planned a third. The first of these was a summing up of his life-long dedication to
the church of Sint-Niklaas, L'église St.-Nicolas à Gand with ten original etchings (fig.
21) and 20 reproductions of drawings. This album, which included an introduction by
Grégoire Le Roy, occupied De Bruycker from 1936 until 1938, when it was issued. It
is significant that De Bruycker dedicated a great deal of effort to describing the Church
of Sint-Niklaas, which catered to the lower classes in Ghent, to the virtual exclusion of
the cathedral. It may also be significant that the church interiors are nearly empty and do
not concern the performance of religious rites. Among the drawings that are reproduced
in the album are several staggeringly vertiginous and volumetric renderings of the church
interior (cat. 47, the original drawing) in which one can almost hear the echoing of
wooden chairs scraping the stone pavement as a few figures move about in the empty
Despite increasingly difficult health problems (primarily a weakening of his bones) that
demanded that De Bruycker dedicate most of his efforts to drawing rather than
printmaking, he managed to etch a selection of twenty-two drawings culled from the
dozens he had executed on the outdoor terrace of the café Wilson in 1940. Chabot
describes this situation:
Life has become hard. De Bruycker is sick. He is brought by taxi to sit on the
steps in front of a café. He nestles into a corner and chain-smokes his
cigarettes. Concealed, he draws like one possessed. The other guests sit with
their backs toward him, he observes them and penetrates their character.109
These studies of people from various walks of life, often done from the back,
appeared in 1942, as Gens de chez nous (People from Around Here, cat. 48).
Shortly after Germany attacked Belgium in May 1940, a bridge near De Bruycker's
residence was blown up, damaging his home. Chabot reports that the artist dwelled
increasingly on humankind's self-destructive tendencies, and, further, that he feared that
his nightmarish visions of the First World War were coming to pass.110 Chabot also
records that De Bruycker would scream out during aerial attacks, "They are going to
blow everything to pieces! They are going to destroy everything!"111 The impact of
military occupation on the seventy-year-old artist must have been chilling, especially
considering that he had lived out the previous occupation of Belgium vicariously. It is
ironic that throughout the years of occupation German print enthusiasts would
occasionally arrive in a black Daimler-Benz at De Bruycker's residence, among them
the director of the Berlin Museum. On one occasion De Bruycker was even asked to
supply a drawing for propaganda purposes by the Germans, but he refused.112
In a superb gesture of defiance and perhaps daring, fully in keeping with De Bruycker's
lifelong practice of quietly recording his surroundings, he began his final portfolio, which
was to be called Gens pas de chez nous (People Not from Around Here, cat. 49, 50,
51). This portfolio, issued posthumously in 1975 under the title oorlogsetsen en -
schetsen (Wartime Etchings and Drawings), includes prints pulled from the six original
plates that De Bruycker finished etching before his death on September 5, 1945, as well
as reproductions of eight drawings that were made in preparation for the series. These
compositions superficially resemble the studies in Gens de chez nous, however, a closer
examination reveals that the figures enjoying their cocktails, cigarettes, and leisure in the
terrace are the occupying forces, not the citizens of Ghent. This is a far more horrifying
vision than the Bruegelian landscapes that De Bruycker had invented during the First
World War, for it is an eye-witness account that testifies to our strange human ability to
participate as individuals in war while remaining blithely unscathed. It is this unflinching
integrity to what is seen, tempered with an ironic undertow, that marks much of De
Bruycker's career. It is also this quality that van de Woestijne doubtless had already
detected in 1912 when he wrote, "De Bruycker may also be called: an Eye - but an eye
in which the optic nerve plunges into self-denying discontent, into self-mocking
bitterness."113 Van de Woestijne, who was writing before either World War, may have
been mistaken, however, to see De Bruycker's cynicism as self-directed; rather, De
Bruycker's cynicism should be understood as an extension of his eye, an extension that
looks outward, not inward.


1. Baedeker, Belgium and Holland, p. 75.
2. The Battle of the Golden Spurs of 1302 is still commemorated annually on July 11 as
a holiday for Flemish-speaking Belgium.
3. Van Lerberge, De Geschiedenis van Bond Moyson, pp. 11-12.
4. Goddard, Les XX and the Belgian Avant-Garde, pp. 22-24.
5. De Bosschère's major article on De Bruycker was published in Flemish, but all of his
literary works were composed in French.
6. Bonnel, "Herinneringen aan Juul de Bruycker," p. 1064: "Nooit of nimmer heb ik, in
al die vele jaren, politieke of taalkwesties met hem besproken. Wel kon hij, af en toe,
schertsend of sarkastisch een schot - vóór of tegen - aflaten. Verder ging het niet."
7. See the over-1500 page catalogue, Ghent, Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Gent,
duizend jaar kunst en cultuur. See also Baillieul, Een Stad in Opbouw. Gent voor 1540,
and Dambruyn, Een Stad in Opbouw. Gent van 1540 tot de Wereldtentoonstelling van
8. Mussche, Gent en zijn etser-teekenaar Jules De Bruycker, p. 10: "In den wachttoren
en in de kapel ronkt en rookt een katoenfabriek, krijschen de machines, zwoegen
mannen en vrouwen en kinders in vale killigheid, erger dan beesten. En aan de koude
harde steenen van het slot kleven als melaatsche knobbels en zweren honderd
erbarmelijke krotten en kroegen: onvergelijkelijk beeld der klasse-tegenstellingen."
9. Frommer, A Masterpiece Called Belgium, pp. 182-86.
10. Fris, Histoire de Gand, p. 353. This study by the city archivist was first published
for the celebration surrounding the 1913 International Exposition in Ghent.
11. Fris, Histoire de Gand, pp. 355-56, and see the extensive treatment in Capiteyn,
Gent in Weelde Herboren, pp. 9-43.
12. I thank John De Bruycker for pointing this drawing out to me.
13. For the Dead City Theme see Friedman, The Symbolist Dead City, and Pudles,
"Fernand Khnopff, Georges Rodenbach, and Bruges, the Dead City." However
unlikely, Hellens claims that he had not read Bruges-la-Morte; Hellens, Documents
Secrets, p. 38.
14. Hellens, Documents Secrets, p. 39: Je me procurai son adresse et me décidai à aller
frapper à sa porte. A mon grand désappointement, il habitait une petite maison
proprette dans une rue quelconque de la ville neuve, au lieu de cette vieille tour que
j'avais remarquée près du canal et ou j'aurais voulu qu'il perchât. Sans doute allais-je
me trouver en face d'un étre mal vétu, dont le visage terreux et maigre et les longs
cheveux défaits indiqueraient tout de suite la qualité d'artiste... Un petit homme d'aspect
soigné, proprement habillé et d'un visage tout fait normal, vint m'ouvrirÉ Ou avais-je
déja aperçu cette figure? Je me souvins. Mes parents habitaient une maison bourgeoise,
entre ville et campagne. Un après-midi, j'étais occupé à bucher les matières du prochain
examen, quand on frappaàla porte. Je répondis avec mauvaise humeur et jetaiàpeine un
coup d'oeil sur l'importun, un homme de trente ans environ, d'extérieur toutàfait
quelconque, et dont les traits, au premier abord, semblaient dépourvus de caractère. Il
portait une courte barbe soigneusement taillée et tenait en main un chapeau melon. -- Je
suis le tapissier, me dit-il d'une voix effacée.
15. Le Roy, L'Oeuvre gravé de Jules De Bruycker, pp. 11-12: Ne suis-je pas moi
même un tapissier raté? Les mauvaises leçons sont sans doute celles qu'on écout le
mieux. Moi aussi je révai de faire des tours et des cabrioles; d'une façon plus modeste,
bien etendu, avec mon crayon--car je n'avais de dispositions ni pour la scène ni pour le
cirque. Je dessinai tant et plus, mon père en profita pour m'envoyeràl'Académie. La
science des styles, pensait-il, est utile au tapissier. Nous étionsàl'aube des temps ou les
bourgeois révaient d'une salleàmanger Renaissance et d'un Salon Louis XVI.
16. Le Roy, L'Oeuvre gravé de Jules De Bruycker, p. 15: Patatras! Du coup je sentis
s'éteindre la petite aureole dont je me croyais paré. Pour ma ville natale, plus de 50
eaux-fortes, de nombreuses aquarelles et de milliers de dessins ne comptaient pas.
J'étais toujours le tapissier, l'humble tapissier!
17. Karel van de Woestijne, "Jules De Bruycker," 1922 (I), p. 1: "Wij waren immers
geene artiesten wij: gij waart een behangersjongen (ik mag het toch verklappen?), ik een
studeerende op den eersten trap der universiteit."
18. Chabot, "Jules De Bruycker," 1963, p. 124: De direkteur van de Akademie voor
Schone Kunsten, Delvin, schreef op 12 mei 1916 aan Van Herrewege: "Lang geleden
heeft De Bruycker mij eens binnen gelaten--ik weet niet meer hoe of waarom - op de
kamer waar hij werkte. Ik was onmiddellijk aangegrepen, totaal. Overal tekeningen op
stukjes los papier, onverzorgd en opzettelijk onafgewerkt om de belangstellenden te
bekoren. Alles was gebruikt, onverschillig hoe, om toch maar een overdadige en
overvloedige gang van gedachten uit te beelden. Daar zag ik de menselijke ellende
blootgelegd, zoals ze is, scherp of verdoken. En ik herinner mij de rustige figuur van De
Bruycker. Alleen de vluchtige ogen verraadden zijn onrust. Ik herinner mij zijn
vlammende blik, wanneer hij staande hield geen karikatuur te hebben gemaakt. ÔEen
kunst om te doen lachen? zei hij. Mijn ziel schreit wanneer ik de mensen zo uitbeeld. Ik
zie ze zo, en zo zijn ze. Ik heb er medelijden mee, eindeloos medelijden.'"
19. Le Roy, L'Oeuvre gravé de Jules De Bruycker, pp. 13, 14: En 1902 je changerai
de quartier et m'installai au Patershol--un ancien couvent fort délabré--o plus d'un
artiste avait établi sa demeure. Ces habitations de fortune donnaient presque toutes sur
une vaste cour intérieure, dispensatrice d'une lumière favorable. C'était un milieu
pittoresque, non seulement par la vétusté des b‰timents, mais aussi par la variété des
locataires: des artistes et d'incorrigibles pauvres et poivrots. C'est lˆ que je m'attaquai
aux aquarelles de grand format.
20. Robert Hoozee, Veertig Kunstenaars Rond Karel van de Woestijne.
21. The title of the progressive Flemish journal Van Nu en Straks has been translated as
"From Now On," see Goddard Les XX, pp. 354-55.
22. Karel van de Woestijne, "Jules De Bruycker," 1912, p. 902, based in part on the
translation in Boyens, Flemish Art, p. 26: Om dat kachelken heen zaten wij, op nogal
kreupele stoelen, en rookten steenen pijpen. Herinner u, Herman Teirlinck, die toen in
Gent studeerdet, hoe wij er krakeelden, om dat intieme kachelken, over Shakespeare-
kritiek. En gij, alle andere makkers, hoe wij er Kropotkine uitpluisden. En gij, Julius de
Praetere-zelf, gij thans Herr Direktor des Zürcher Kunstgewerbe-Museums, herinner
hoe wij gloeiden voor eene nieuwe boekdruk-kunst; hoe wij zonder geld en zonder
zekerheid, de uitgave "Werk" aangingen, die, na de eerste reeks van "Van Nu en
Straks," al bleef zij bij haar eerste nummer, de schoonste, en, naar druk en
ornamenteering, zeker het meest logisch-typografisch, het meest bewust-samengestelde
en -uitgevoerde tijdschrift was... Herinnert u alleen, hoe we, (al dagteekent uit dien tijd
onze enquete, herberg aan herberg, naar het beste Oudenaardsche bier), leefden van
een onrustig maar rusteloos, van een aarzelend maar prachtig geestesleven!... In de zaal
stond verder, midden in tafels en schilderezels, de logge hand-pers, waar De Praetere
zijne inzichten aangaande drukkunst verwezenlijkte. Aan lange touwen droogden de
vellen van Stijn Streuvels' "Lenteleven," waarvan de eerste uitgave hier uitging.
23. Karel van de Woestijne, "Jules De Bruycker," 1922 (I), pp. 1-2: Zooals andere
kunstenaars in den Pand, het Rolleken of de Vrouwebroers hun intrek hadden
genomen, woonde hij in één der lokalen van het Patershol. Pand, Rolleken,
Vrouwebroers en Patershol waren verweven kloostercomplexen. De Pand hing vroeger
af van de Sinte-Michielsheeren; het Rolleken dankte zijn naam aan de ronde, door een
schot gescheiden holte, waarin men (op gezag van niemand minder dan Jean-Jacques
Rousseau) de jong-geboren kinderen kwam neérleggen, waar men in het vader- of
moederhart geen plaatsing voor had. De broeders van Onze Lieve Vrouw hadden hun
naam gegeven aan het derde reuzengebouw. Het Patershol droeg een naam zonder
dubbelzinnigheid; het was het inkt-zwarte hol waar in verleden eeuwen honderden
paters woonden. Vooral de twee laatste lokaliteiten, hoe vervallen ook, konden
doorgaan voor architectonische merkwaardigheden. Gelegen in de logge schaduw van
het haast duizend jaren oude Gravensteen, waar een wriemeling van werklieden op dat
tijdperk uitvoerige verstellingswerken aan het doen was; als eindblokken van enge,
lange, bochtige stegen waar in het midden een greppel zijne walmende wandeling
maakte en waar, uit de oneindig-hooge en overhellende huizen de geur van zeeploog en
rookool als de natuurlijke uitwaseming was van de wijven die men er kijven en de
kinderen die men er drenzen hoorde, stonden zij in hunne bonkige onaanroerbaarheid.
De Vrouwebroers blonken uit door eene weldoende zindelijkheid. Een ruime poort
voerde naar eene binnenplaats die, links, den breed-bladigen wasdom vertoonde van
hooge zonnebloemen, op de drempel van kleine huisjes waar het gezin van oude lieden
zijn intrek had. Recht, in de klare gang die aan die zijde de binnenplaats en haar grazige
keien afsloot, was een breede eikenhouten trap met sierlijk snijwerk, die naar de tot
atelier ingerichte cellen leidde. Men vond er doorgaans schilders met eene decoratie; het
was een deftige gelegenheid.
Het voornaamste gebouw in het Patershol, dat lag vlak over eene verdachte herberg die
tot tien uur in den avond vol bange doodschheid was maar die in den nacht aan het
huilen ging alsof men er telkens iemand vermoordde onder een onherroepelijk gebod
van helsche machten,-het voornaamste gebouw van het Patershol zag zijne binnenplaats
ingenomen door een kuiper, die onder zijne dennenhouten vaatjes een spanen vuurtje
deed branden dat oogen en keel aanbeet. Links, onder het oude schaliedak dat op een
fraaigebeeldhouwde kepering inzonk, draaide een steile steenen trap, aan de hulp van
een vet-blinkend touw, waar de schildersateliers op openden. Het waren groote,
blauw-gekalkte ruimten, met eenige welsprekende slordigheid ingericht. Het roode
sprietoog van een decoratie lonkte daarin door geen enkel knoopsgat. Daarentegen
boden onop-gemaakte bedden met bedenkelijk linnengoed eene gastvrije
slaapsgelegenheid. Opmerkelijk was hier het gebrek aan schilderijen: arme schilders
denken maar zelden aan werken. Maar men zag onafgewasschen borden die de
overtuiging wekten dat hier toch nu en dan gegeten werd. De wanden deden voor die
van Italiaansche paleizen niet onder: menig naakt figuur was er, in een oogenblik van
grootheidswaanzin, met houtskool op nagebootst. Een stapeltje boeken lag er onder
een verroest revolver: onaantastelijkheid van de vruchten des geestes. En verder was er
de ellende van een klagend man.
Ik ben maar met het leelijkste begonnen. Daaronder was onder meer de cel van
iemand, die het zoowaar tot professor aan de teeken-academie had gebracht. Hij had
een teringlijdende vrouw op een kamer in stad : daardoor had hij hier geen bed noodig.
Hij had het vervangen door een harmonium, dat de rol speelde van prikkel. Schiller
omringde zich met rotte appelen, Puvis de Chavannes streek zijn beenen in met eau de
cologne, Beethoven goot water over zijne polsen; deze speelde op een valsch klinkend
harmonium het Ave Maria van Gounod. Hij had dat noodig om kruiswegen te
schilderen, want dat was zijne aanhoudende bezigheid. Nauwelijks was eene graflegging
af, of er werd een doek opgespannen voor eene Veroordeeling door Pontius Pilatus.
Met de grootste regelmatigheid werden daar tusschenin de twaalf andere stati‘n
geschilderd. Nooit kwam in de schilderijen de minste wijziging, noch aan teekening,
noch aan kleur. Wij wisten heel goed wanneer hij aan een smartelijken blik-toetssteen
van zijn kunde-zou beginnen uit den top van een rond kwastje: hij speelde een Ave
Maria, en de inspiratie was er. Wij hadden met hem een soort minachtend medelijden:
zijne vrouw had tering, zijne vaal-bleeke kinderen bij aanhouding een snotneus.
Het was onder de inspiratieve tranerigheid van het Gounod-harmonium dat ik voor het
eerst mijne hand legde in die van Jules de Bruycker, behangersgast. Het was in de
laagste der zalen; hooge ramen lieten den bitteren geur door van het spanen vuurtje dat
den buik verwarmde van de dennen tonnetjes, waar men appelen in opzenden zou naar
Engeland, hetgeen te dien tijd eene Gentsche bezigheid was die ik nooit recht heb
begrepen. In deze ruime kamer met rijzige gewelven, waar men de vestigia van een
altaar vermoedde, was zoo goed als niets dat aan schilderkunst denken deed. Maar
men vond er eene Gotische grammatica, de Engelsche oefeningen van Stoffel en eene
kritische uitgave van Kabale und Liebe: mijn eigendom. Gemeenschappelijk eigendom
was een stapel nummers van Les Temps nouveaux en van den Mercure de France. Er
was ook een zeer fraaie pijp die ik aan de gemeenschap cadeau had gedaan, en die
geen ander pleizier had dan te soppen. Dit lokaal werd te dien tijde vereerd met het
bezoek van Stijn Streuvels en Herman Teirinck. Te dezer gelegenheid werd de roode
tegel-vloer schoongeveegd door een daartoe uitgenoodigd model. Zij was een dutsig
meisje vol gedweeheid. Zij dacht dat men haar ontbood om to poseeren: het was alleen
om to vegen. Dat zij zich niet hoefde uit te kleeden was voor haar als eene teleurstelling.
Nooit heeft zij voor het vegen een cent willen aanvaardenÉ
In deze zaal en in deze omstandigheden ontmoette ik voor het eerst Jules de Bruycker.
Hij had het niet prettig: een kleine tien jaar ouder dan ik, begaafd met een talent dat toen
reeds al zijne vrienden waardeerden, al had hij nog nooit eene etsnaald in hand gehad-
alleen behangersnaalden placht hij te hanteren-sprong hij bij ons binnen, den riem van
een ronden, rooden, tapijtenzak gesneden in den schouder. Hij moest zorgen voor
moeder en zuster: hij werkte met gespannenheid en bitterheid. Hij was een schuchtere
en een scepticus: hij lachte met schamperheid, als men hem zei dat hij meer geld zou
hebben kunnen verdienen als teekenaar dan als tapissier. Hij was oud genoeg om aan
geen hersenschimmen toe te geven. Er was trouwens iets dat hij maar al te goed wist:
een goed schilder zou hij nooit zijn geworden; hij was zoo goed als kleurenblind. Hij,
die toen reeds een grandioos caricaturist was, met al de eigenschappen van een
Daumier; van Daumier miste hij de broeiende kleur. -Soms bracht hij ons teekeningen ;
een enkel maal verzocht hij zelfs onzen vriend één zijner teekeningen te aquarelleeren
(het was, geloof ik, zijne eerste bestelling). Toen zagen wij hem aan: zijn clowneske kop
verwrong en trilde om den mond. Zijne wonderlijke puntneus die waarlijk kijkt; zijne
naar binnen geboorde oogjes; zijn smalle en wonder beweegbare lippen; en heel dat
schrale en soepele lichaam: zij waren ééne negatie; dat alles beteekende: niets, niets.
En nochtans kon hij niet buiten teekenen. Meer dan eene obsessie, was het hem eene
behoefde. Ontmoette hij op straat een type dat zijne aandacht trok, hij achtervolgde
hem, een papiertje in de handpalm, het potlood tusschen de vingeren. Hij vergat het
behangerswerk: hij was de bezetene der kunst.
24. Chabot "Jules De Bruycker," 1963, p. 125.
25. Karel van de Woestijne, "Jules De Bruycker," 1912, p. 903.
26. Eeckhout, Jules De Bruycker, p. 7.
27. Hellens, "La Cuisine de fous," in Les Hors-le-Vent, pp. 42-43. The passage is also
given in Flemish translation in Chabot, "Jules De Bruycker," 1963, pp.125-126 (Chabot
discusses Emile Van Vooren on p. 124): Le dessinateur occupait dans la cuisine du
concierge une place marquée. Monsieur Charles l'admirait avec une naiveté d'enfant
devant un prêtre, bien que le privilégié ne parét pas s'en soucier, se contentant de
trouver le feu excellent, le cigares fins, la place commode et lucrative. Son nez mobile
de fourmilier semblait sans cesse chercher le fumet sensuel des choses. L'atmosphère
surchauffée de cette cuisine, ou passaient des effluves d'animalité dans le relent gras des
nourritures, convenaitàses instincts flaireurs; il y faisait ses meilleures études, tout en
ayant l'air uniquement de se chauffer et de causer. Les murs s'écaillaient de croquis
inachevés, de charges folles ou ni la bonhommie du concierge ni le gatisme de sa
chienne n'étaient respectés. Derrière la loge, dans un débarras, des cartons bourrés
d'études s'empilaient; le concierge se chargeait de la vente. Les collectionneurs venaient
de loin le trouver! Et Monsieur Charles, très fier, disait: "Je travaille pour mes artistes!"
See also Bonnel, "Herinneringen aan Juul de Bruycker," pp. 1051-54 for this locale.
28. For Baertsoen see Eeckhout, Albaert Baertsoen.
29. Le Roy, L'Oeuvre gravé de Jules De Bruycker, p. 13: Un jour, ma flanerie me
conduit au musée ou je découvre une planche de Baertsoen. Ce fut une révélation! Mon
emballement pour de procédé fut soudain, irrésistable. Je me lançai chez Fritz Van Loo
que je savais initié en cet art. Il me donna ma première leçon. Son atelier était au Pand,
rue de Valée. Encore un couvent désaffecté.
30. For Van Loo see Dictionnaire biographique p. 380.
31. Chabot, "Jules De Bruycker," 1963, p. 115, who gives De Bruycker's age as 30,
not 35 when he started to etch. For Van Campenhout and Maison Dietrich see
Goddard, Les XX and the Belgian Avant-Garde, pp. 80, 87.
32. I want to thank Robert Hoozee for taking the time guide me through Ghent in order
to identify the sites.
33. In 1992, the Veergrepe (or Veergreep, as it appears on today's maps) was partially
levelled and turned into a public park.
34. Goddard, "Print Culture in Nineteenth-Century Belgium," in Les XX and the Belgian
Avant-Garde, pp. 75-97, p. 90.
35. Karel van de Woestijne, "Jules De Bruycker," 1912, pp. 912-15.
36. For the episode of van de Woestijne and de Sadeleer, see Gustave van de
Woestijne, Karel en Ik, pp. 83-84.
37. Mussche, Gent en zijn etser-teekenaar Jules De Bruycker, p. 17.
38. Bonnel, "Herinneringen aan Juul de Bruycker," p. 1052.
39. Decavele, De Opera van Gent, pp. 141, 188-89, for photographs of the Opera
Paradise (before and after restoration completed in 1993).
40. This volume of loose mounted drawings has been titled Schetsen "opstrate" I
(Sketches from the Street I). Two of them are dated 1914.
41. For de Praetere's father see Gustave van de Woestijne karel en Ik, p. 34. In Vieux
marchéàGand the artist shows a view of Sint-Jacobs from the West but has substituted
the tympanum from the North portal; and in Vieux marché en Flandre Sint-Jacobs is
seen from the Vlas markt to the south, with the view modified so that the Baudeloo
Chapel appears to the upper left.
42. Karel van de Woestijne, "Jules De Bruycker," 1912, pp. 910-11: Lange en geerige
vingers wegen vreemde sleutels, tillen naar boven de ijzeren roosters waar roest verteert
cierlijke arabesken, betasten Damascus-poken of, eenvoudiger, niet al te zeer
aangevreten strijk-ijzers, tenzij het een zeldzaam stel achttiende-eeuwsche romans was
of grauw-omkafte pamfletten uit de zestiende, de reeks der volledige werken van
Buffon of eene verzameling mode-platen; of nog: eene heilige relikwie, eene bed-pan,
een keizersportret, een pannen-lap tot het poetsen der kachels, een schutterij-uitrusting,
een lamp een revolver, een middeleeuwsch stads-register, oud porselein, afgedragen
kleederen (naar dewelke groote vraag is), muziek-instrumenten of een koopje
voorhistorisch schoen-smeer.
43. Karel van de Woestijne, "Jules De Bruycker," 1912, p. 935.
44. Bouwen door de eeuwen heen. 4na. Stad Gent vol. 1, pp. 271-72, and see the
color plate.
45. Guislain, Le palais de Justice.
46. Guislain, "Jules De Bruycker aquafortiste et poète," p. 1: --J'ai travaillé la bas. Pas
assez. J'aurrais aimé dessiner le Palais de Justice. Vous l'avez appelé le Mammouth?
Les architectures étagées du Mammouth m'ont toujours tenté. Il est magnifique, ce
temple immense ruisselant de lumière. Cette superposition de formes, cet étagement de
pierres et de terrasses, quelle splendeur! Quelle choseàfaire, comme nous disons. J'y
suis allé, j'ai cherché. De braves gens de la rue Haute et de la rue des Minimes m'ont
offert l'hospitalité de leur grenier et de leur mansardes. Mais la chance ne m'a pas
favorisé. Un obstacle est toujours venu s'interposer entre votre Palais de Justice et moi.
Regrettable! Et la salle des Pas-Perdus! Quelle eau-forte! Quel dessin! Ma femme et
moi-même avons pénétré, un jour, par hassard; dans une salle d'audience. Une affaire
se plaidait. Une ménagère discuitait la note de son boucher. Elle prétendait qu'on lui
avait fourni trop d'os et de graisse et pas assez de viande. C'est drôle, la vie. Et dans
cette basilique formidable, cette toute petite comédie. C'était humain, trop humain...
47. I thank John De Bruycker for pointing this out.
48. Capiteyn, Gent in Weelde Herboren, p. 67.
49. Chabot, "Jules De Bruycker," 1963, p. 133: Personne sauf vous et M. Fornier n'ont
vu jusqu'ici le dessin Montage du Dragon. La gravure premier état est presque terminée
et je compte sur un résultat supérieuràcelui de la planche du château des comtes.
Excusez ma vanité! Je gratte comme un enragé, sans relâche, depuis deux semaines. Et
je puis avoir cet espoir! Maintenant j'en suisàla morsure. Je vais procéder tout
autrement, lentement, une morsure de 6à12 heures. Cette eau forte doitêtremoins
matérielle, plus vision que le château des comtes. Je le répète, j'ai beaucoup d'espoir et
surtout beaucoup de ténacité ou entetement et quand je faiblis, je descendsàla cave et je
débouche une de ces bouteilles ... pas d'acide nitrique!
50. Chabot, "Jules De Bruycker," 1963, pp. 132-34. Chabot lists the works exhibited
at the bi‘nnale as: Marktdag te Gent, Het Huis Palfijn, Het Planten van de Draak,
Schets, De Man van het Belfort, De Markt, De St.-Jacobsmarkt, Graslei (fruitmarkt),
Burcht te Brugge (eerste proef), Rond het Gravensteen, and De Prondelvrouw.
51. Buschmann, "Belgian Artists in England," pp. 186-209.
52. Eeckhout,"Bruycker, Jules-François De," pp. 132-33. Not much has been set
down about De Leyn. Eeckhout says only, "Sa sensibilité, sa culture, son éclectisme
tout autant que son esprit critique exercont sur l'artiste une influence prépondérante tout
au long de sa carrière."
53. Chabot, "Jules De Bruycker," 1963, p. 136. Young, The Paintings of James
McNeill Whistler, text vol., p. lxviii.
54. Chabot, "Jules De Bruycker," 1963, p. 136: Ici on était obligé de rester au studio--
défense de travailler en rue. Si on regardait avec trop d'insistance un pont, statue ou
bâtiment, vous étiez suspect! Avec cela le charmant climat, brouillard, pluies et
distances formidables. Ce n'était pas facile."
55. De Bruycker's two scenes of Piccadilly Circus were done from the windows of the
Swan and Edgar store, not from the street, see Bonnel, "Herinneringen aan Juul de
Bruycker," p. 1058.
56. Karel van de Woestijne, "Jules De Bruycker," 1922 (III), p. 1: Hij leeft thans den
meesten tijd in eene hallucinatorische atmospheer: de afstand zet de gebeurtenissen uit,
verleent haar eene synthetisch-symbolische beteekenis die wij, in het land gebleven, niet
steeds begrepen.
57. Chabot, "Jules De Bruycker," 1963, p. 138, from a letter of November 23, 1918:
J'ai assez bien travaillé. J'ai, sans avoir entendu un coup de fusil, fait des dessins se
rapportantàla guerre. Des oeuvres étranges et qui m'ont ouvert pour l'avenir un autre
58. See, for example, Shapiro, Painters and Politics, chapter 6 "Artists at War" pp.
132-72, and Cork, A Bitter Truth: Avant-garde Art and the Great War. See also
London, Imperial War Museum, A Concise Catalogue.
59. Shapiro, Painters and Politics, p. 158.
60. This list was compiled in part from Shapiro, Painters and Politics, p. 132.
61. Cork, A Bitter Truth: Avant-garde Art and the Great War, p. 9.
62. A study by Brendan Burny discussing the discovery of an important source for the
skeleton in De Bruycker's print is anticipated in the 1995 Museum voor Schone
Kunsten, Ghent, catalogue on De Bruycker.
63. For Ulenspiegel (or Tijl Ulenspiegel, Uilenspiegel, or Eulenspeigel), see Simons,
"Tijl Uilenspiegel." For De Coster see De Seyn, Dictionnaire des Ecrivains Belges, pp.
380-82; and Klinkenberg, Charles De Coster. 64. Anon, "Belgische Kunst te
Rotterdam": Deze ets heet De Dood over Vlaanderenland, en herinnert aan Uilenspiegel
de beschrijving-in-woorden van Ôt vroeger geweld. Hoevele zinnen uit dit boek - ook
die van het onsterfelijk land--zijn toepasselijk wéér op den tijd! En hoe heeft deze kunst
den ouden geest, den rijkdom het karakteristieke, dat een innig vlaamsche roem is.
65. Willis, Flemish Renaissance Revival.
66. Freidman, "Belgian Symbolism," pp. 127-28.
67. Friedman, "Belgian Symbolism," p. 238.
68. Karel van de Woestijne, "De Vlaamsche Primitieven, hoe ze waren te Brugge." His
copy of the exhibition catalogue is full of notations, see Somers, Karel Van de
Woestijne 48, no. 140. For "Ruysbroeck mysticism" see van de Woestijne, "Jules De
Bruycker," 1922 (II), p.2.
69. Boyens, Flemish Art, p. 41. For the significance of Ruusbroec for Dutch artists at
the turn of the century, see Polak, Het Fin-De-Siècle, pp. 4, 141.
70. Streuvels, In oorlogstijd 92, 115 (Bruegel); 367, 391, 447, 547 (Ulenspiegel).
71. Chabot, "Jules De Bruycker," 1963, p. 161.
72. For Christus see Gustave van de Woestijne, Karel en ik pp. 51, 92; and for Mme
Minne see the same work, p. 67.
73. For Karel's writing area see Gustave van de Woestijne, Karel en ik, pp. 31 and 51.
The former described Karel's study in Ghent, which had, in addition to the items listed in
Sint-Martens-Latem, a portrait of Max Elskamp and a photograph of the students at the
athenaeum. Gustave makes fun of his brother's natty posture in this photograph. For
Willem Kloos see Grote Winkler Prins Encyclopedie, vol. 13, p. 199.
74. Berg, "Bos(s)chère, Jean de"; de Bosschère, Portraits d'Amis; Estang, Jean de
Boschère l'admirable; Putnam, The World of Jean de Bosschère; Warmoes,
"Boschère;" Warmoes, Jean de Boschère.
75. De Bosschère, Metsys; de Bosschère, La Sculpture Anversoise, de Bosschère,
"Bruegel le drole." Later in life he dedicated a study to Bosch, published posthumously
in 1968, de Bosschère, Bosch.
76. De Bosschère, "Jules De Bruycker, Teekenaar en Etser"; "Exhibition by Belgian
Artists, the Dowdeswell Galeries, Juni 1917;" "Exhibition of Belgian Art for the Benefit
of the Croydon General Hospital."
77. De Bosschère, "Jules De Bruycker, Teekenaar en Etser," p. 1.
78. De Bosschère, Christmas Tales of Flanders; de Bosschère, Beasts and Men.
Although Warmoes, Jean de Boschère, p. 55, suggests that these books were only
done at the suggestion of Edmund Dulac in order to find some financial success, the
choice of subject matter cannot be disregarded.
79. Warmoes, Jean de Boschère, p. 47, and Fletcher, "Drawings of Jean de
Bosschère," pp. 195, 198-99 (also given in Warmoes, Jean de Boschère, p. 57).
80. Archives de l'art contemporain en Belgique (Brussels), no. 40.190, letter to Heer
De Graaff, not dated, "de aquarellen die daar te zien zijn buitengewoon interessant.
Vlaamsche spreuken en vertellingen op zo Ôn mooie wijse geinterpreteerd!" The
exhibition was in the Leicester Gallery, London, Oct. 27, 1915. I thank Micheline Colin
for identifying the venue of this exhibition.
81. Bonnel, "Herinneringen aan Juul de Bruycker," pp. 1054-63.
82. From a letter of April 24, 1915, cited in Buenger "Max Beckmann in the First
World War," p. 250; citing Rudolf Binding, A Fatalist at War, London, 1929, p. 64.
83. For Goulding see Hardie, Frederick Goulding, see p. 15 for Goulding Ltd. Goulding
died in 1909.
84. Chabot, "Jules De Bruycker," 1963, p. 138; and Eeckhout, "Bruycker, Jules-
François De," p. 134.
85. These accomplishments are summarized in Chabot, "Jules De Bruycker," 1963, p.
148. See Vanzype, "Notice sur Jules De Bruycker," for an appreciation of De Bruycker
by a fellow academician. There are many reports of an exhibition of De Bruycker's
work at the Carnegie Institute, but this may be a mistaken report of the Chicago Art
Institute exhibition, see McC., "De Bruycker, Etcher of Ghent, Introduced to America,"
and anon., "Horrors of War Theme of Many De Bruycker Etchings."
86. Chabot, "Jules De Bruycker," 1963, p. 143; Le Roy, L'Oeuvre gravé de Jules De
Bruycker, p. 15. For the Pand setting in De Bruycker's works see Simons, Het Pand,
p. 113.
87. See Simons, Het Pand, and De Smet, "Nos Artistes. Mme Cécile Cauterman."
88. For market scenes see Le Roy, L'Oeuvre gravé de Jules De Bruycker, numbers 82,
84, 85.
89. The title page clearly announces these illustrations as woodcuts ("bois originaux par
J. De Bruycker") but it is hard to imagine that the artist would have mastered the art of
wood engraving for this commission and never dabbled in it again. In all likelihood De
Bruycker produced drawings that were in turn carved by a wood engraving specialist.
Several of the images show the fine white lines characteristic of wood engraving.
90. Chabot, "Jules De Bruycker," p. 148.
91. Hellens, "La Cuisine des fous," in his Les Hors-le-vent, pp. 47, 49, 50, 52.
92. See Simons, "Tijl Uilenspiegel;" and Le Folklore dans l'oeuvre de Charles De
Coster. Among the Belgian artists who furnished illustrations for De Coster's text are:
Félicien Rops (1867, Rops also founded a journal Uylenspiegel in 1856), Paul-Auguste
Masui-Castricque (1917), Albert Delstanche (1918), Frans Masereel (1926), Joris
Minne (1936), and Josef Cantré (date uncertain).
93. Strictly speaking the instruments traditionally associated with lust are the droning
instruments, the bagpipes and the hurdy-gurdy; but the more recent accordion shares
the qualities of these droning instruments. See Winternitz, "Bagpipes and Hurdy-
94. Marijnissen, "Artiest chargeerde te veel of te weinig."
95. Chabot, "Jules De Bruycker," 1963, p. 150: "Je compte fair sous peu un
séjouràBruxelles pour y étudier plusieurs sites depuis longtemps admirés: Ste Gudule,
La Bourse, Le Palais de Justice--trois autocrates différents mais autocrates--valant bien
un bain d'acide! Quelle ville superbe et presque vierge pour un oeil indiscret et un peu
96. De Bosschère, "Jules De Bruycker," p. 2: Men moet geen oudheidkundige zijn om
to beseffen, dat opeenhoopingen van gebouwen pas na lange jaren beginnen to leven.
Dan is een niet te omschrijven gemeenschap onstaan tusschen menschen en dingen. Die
gemeenschap bestaat uit duizend schakeeringen, welke door deze gevoelens
waargeenomen en genoten kunnen worden.
97. For Ensor's drawings see Hoozee, James Ensor, Dessins et Estampes, pp. 107-
119; see especially Ensor's drawing "LA VIVE ET RAYONNANTE. L'ENTRÉE A
JÉRUSALEM," of 1885, Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Gent.
98. Chabot, "Jules De Bruycker," 1963, p. 102, indicates that De Bruycker confided in
him his feeling that "Si j'avais fait pour Paris ce que j'ai fait pour Gand, je serais
célèbre," and further, that this sentiment returned whenever De Bruycker received a
new novel illustrated by Masereel. See also Chabot "Jules De Bruycker," 1963, p. 98.
99. Eeckhout, Jules De Bruycker, p. 4 See also Sint-Niklaas, Stedelijk Museum Sint-
Niklaas, Jules De Bruycker, p. 7, where it is suggested that it was the artist's wife who
inspired De Bruycker to travel to France.
100. Chabot "Jules De Bruycker," 1963, p. 157: Ville curieuse mais un peu trop
pittoresqueàmon avis, manquant de caractère, de structure, de force.
101. Chabot, "Jules De Bruycker," 1963, p. 156: "Après j'ai repris d'autres travaux et
les nerfs qui ont été trop tendus sont en ce moment malades et fatigués."
102. De Bruycker lived at Sint-pieterskaai no. 5 beginning in 1908, and Sint-pieterskaai
no. 8 from Dec. 1923. A full roster of the artist's addresses in Ghent is given in Chabot,
"Jules De Bruycker," 1963, p. 118.
103. I thank John De Bruycker for this information.
104. John De Bruycker, "Biografie," in Sint- Niklaas, Jules De Bruycker, p. 7.
105. John De Bruycker, "Biografie," in Sint- Niklaas, Jules De Bruycker, p. 7, for the
Church of Sint-Niklaaas.
106. See Mussche, Gent en zijn etser-teekenaar plates 11-12; Eeckhout, Jules De
Bruycker, nos. 92-94, 104, 109-110, 113, 128, 148-150; Sint-Niklaas, Stedelijk
Museum Sint-Niklaas, Jules De Bruycker, no. 75; and Le Roy, L'Oeuvre gravé de
Jules De Bruycker, nos. 126, 146, 147, 196. I thank John De Bruycker for pointing out
instances of De Bruycker's prints and drawings within these studio renderings;
apparently the small prints that look like folk prints are proofs for his portfolio L'glise St.
107. Chabot, "Jules De Bruycker," 1963, p. 152.
108. Le Folklore dans l'oeuvre de Charles De Coster, p. 73.
109. Chabot, "Jules De Bruycker," 1963, p. 167: Het leven is wel zeer moeilijk
geworden. De Bruycker is ziek. Hij laat zich per taxi afhalen en gaat zitten op de stoep
voor een café. Hij nestelt zich in een hoek en rookt, in ketting, zijn sigaretten. Verdoken
tekent hij, als een bezetene. De andere gasten zitten met hun rug naar hem toegekeerd;
hij observeert ze en dringt diep door in hun persoonlijkheid.
110. Chabot, "Jules De Bruycker," 1963, p.166.
111. Chabot, "Jules De Bruycker," 1963, p.166: "Het is gebeurd dat hij bij
luchtbombarde-menten het uitschreeuwde: ÔZe gaan alles stuksmijten! Ze gaan alles
112. Bonnel, "Herinneringen aan Juul de Bruycker," pp. 1063-64.
113. Karel van de Woestijne, "Jules De Bruycker," 1912 p. 920: "Ook De Bruycker
mocht worden genoemd : een Oog. Maar een oog, waarvan de zenuwen-bundel duikt
in misnoegdheden die zich-zelf verloochenen, in verbittering die zich-zelf bespot."
Names and titles with particle are alphabetized by the particle (for example, De
Bruycker under D and van de Woestijne under V), while titles of publications, groups
etc. with articles are alphabetized by the noun (for example, Les Temps Nouveaux
under T).
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