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Art circles in Antwerp, around the end of the 19th century

ALS IK KAN - Antwerpen (december 1883 till 1952)

The circle Als ik kan (If I can) was an association of painters of Antwerp. They organised several expositions and many posters were created by Art Nouveau artists.
The name 'Als ik kan' was derived from the motto of the medieval flemish painter Jan van Eyck. He signed his work with it or did put it into the frame.


The circle was founded on the 25th october 1883 under the different name 'Union Artistique des Jeunes'. Soon the common motto 'Als ik Kan' will become the name under which they would be remembered. The aim of the founders was mainly to create possibilities to exhibit the works of their members, mostly young Antwerp artists, whom weren't accepted in the local official art circuit. Real avant-gardist artists were never to be found amongst the 'Als ik Kan', except Henry Van de Velde, who remained only shortly a member and who later would denie his presence.
Mainly in the early beginning several exhibitions took place, not only in Antwerp, but also in the Netherlands and Germany. The 25th exhibition in 1891 took place at the 'Oud Museum' in the Venusstraat. Before they exhibited at the 'Verlatzaal' in Antwerp.
Later other exhibitions took place at a.o. 'Salle Buyle', 'Salle Forst', 'Zaal Breckpot' and the 'Stadsfeestzaal' in Antwerp.
In 1905 they organised already their 50th group exhibition.
After that the number of exhibitions dropped considerably. The 79th exhibition would be their last. At that time, there were only 9 members left, and the circle was dissolved.


Exhibition of 1884
- with works of : Henry Luyten - de 'rekruut'
Exhibition of 1885 - Room Verlat in Antwerp
- with works of : Henry Luyten - 'een zitting van 'Als ik kan''
Exhibition - date unknown
- with works of : Albert Baggen - 'het Nest'    (also exposed at the circle 'Eigen vorming')
Exhibition of 1895 - Room Verlat in Antwerp
- special exposition around Henry Rul


The founders (on 25th october 1883) were: F. Adriaeenssens, Ch. Boland, Leon Brunin, Edward Chappel, Prosper De Wit, F. Hanno, Jan-Willem Rosier, Henry Rul, Henry Van de Velde.
Within the first year new artists joined and become members: Charles Mertens, A. Sils, Paul Gorge, H. Timmermans, L. Boschmans, Castel Ebert, Henry Luyten, J. Van Snick, W. Albracht, J. Bos, A. Halberstadt, Laura Ringelé, Hermina Laukota, Laure Blood, L. Delehaye, A. Delgoffe and Alfons Van Beurden.
Between 1885 and 1891 even more artists joined the circle: Rosa Leigh, F. Brandt, P. Rink, Henri De Smeth, Evert Pieters, Piet Van Engelen, Jef Van de Roye, Aloïs Boudry, Ch. Berckmans, F. Proost, Romain Steppe, J. De Pooter, J. Van Leemputten, P. Wild, J. Du Jardin, E. Verbrugge, Louis Van Engelen, Lambert Baggen (gezegd Albert Baggen), Evert Larock, C. Nys, R. Atkinson, Richard Baseleer, B. Koldewey, A. Pierre, F. Van Caillie, G. Van der Heyden, Victor Hageman and Oscar Halle.
With the exception of Van de Velde they were all very traditionaly working artists. Therefor 'Als ik Kan' could keep his local character. The arrival of the circle 'Kunst van Heden' in Antwerp would with time offer a fine alternative. The last decades were to long to survive: kept alive by some artists who could not leave the past.
Some members :
Henry Van de VeldeHenry Van de Velde (Antwerpen ° 03.04.1863 - CH Zürich † 15.10.1957)
   impressionistic painter, typography, illustration, furniture designer, silversmith and
   co-founder 'Als ik kan'
Henry RulHenry Rul (Antwerp ° 02.07.1862 - † 1942)
   painter of landscapes
   secretary 'Als ik kan'
   co-founder 'Les XIII'
   1895 in room Verlat - special exposition about his works
Henry LuytenHenry Luyten (Nederland, Roermond, ° 24.05.1859 - † Brasschaat, 21.01.1945)
   painter and sculpturer
   member 'Als ik kan' (1883), later became his president
   exposed several times at room Verlat in Antwerpen
   thanks to him the circle could expose in Nijmegen and 's Hertogenbosch
       In 1886* Henry Luyten painted a group portrait :
                                "Members meeting 'als ik Kan' in 1885"
                                 ( !! Two sources indicate on the one hand exhibitioned in 1885, on the other hand painted in 1886)
Leon De Meuter (Brunin)Léon De Meuter [Brunin] (Antwerpen ° 20:11.1861 - Antwerpen † 19.03.1949)
   Painter, engravor
   founding member 'Als ik kan'
Piet Van EngelenPiet Van Engelen (Lier ° 12.05.1863 - Antwerpen † 1924)
   Painter [brother of Louis Van Engelen]
   1886 : member 'Als ik kan'
Jef Van de RoyeJef Van de Roye (Antwerpen ° 14.03.1861 - † 1941)
   participant expositions 'Als ik kan'
Arthur PierreArthur Pierre (Antwerpen ° 30.07.1866 - Antwerpen † 02.09.1938)
   funerar sculptor
   member 'Als ik kan'
   member 'De Scalden'
Alphonse Van BeurdenAlphonse Van Beurden Sr. (Antwerpen °23.04.1854 - Antwerpen † 21.08.1938)
   sculptor, ivory worker, portraits, façade decorations
   1885 : professor Academy of Antwerp
   member 'Als ik kan'   (as member he sculpted the busts of the members)
Sources : LFM, Nos Artistes Anversois, R.Vervliet (, wikipedia


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