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

KUNST VAN HEDEN - Antwerp 1905-1959



In dienst van de KunstKunst van HedenKunst van Heden (Contemporary Art) was a Belgian association of visual artists and art patrons, founded in Antwerp on 1 March 1905.
The founders were the Antwerp industrialists Franois Franck, Louis Franck and Charles Franck as well as the literary Paul de Mont and Emmanuel de Bom. In the association was also room for wealthy members-patrons such as Bracht, Kreglinger, Bunge, Speth, Mund, Bischoffsheim, Fester, Osterrieth and von der Becke. The latter also founded the shipping company 'Red Star Line' in 1872.
The intention was to form an Antwerp bridgehead to promote contemporary Belgian art. And this through lectures, publications, exhibitions and donations to museums. In Antwerp, unlike Brussels, this was a wasteland.
Only the more moderate, conservative association 'Als ik Kan' and the more progressive but small group 'Eenigen' occupy the terrain in Antwerp. 'Eenigen' ceased to exist at the time of the foundation of 'Kunst van Heden'. It is therefore considered the 'embryonic phase' of 'Kunst van Heden'.
Many names of members were to be found in both groups. Other Antwerp forerunners were 'De Scalden' (1889-1914), which in fact brought little innovation, 'L'Association pour l'Art' (1892-1893) and 'De Kapel' (1899-1905), founded by François Franck. This last movement was a kind of people's university where ideas were exchanged about artistic, philosophical and political topicality.
Members artists from the early days were:
Albert Baertsoen, Richard Baseleer, Emile Claus, Jean Delvin, Victor Charles Hageman, Eugène Laermans, Hendrik Luyten, Charles Mertens, Constantin Meunier, George Minne, George Morren, Ernest Rombaux, Victor Rousseau, Jakob Smits, Eugeen Van Mieghem and Walter Vaes.
Soon after, James Ensor and Egide Rombaux also joined this association.


Kunst van Heden 1905 Leys & de Braekeleer Kunst van Heden 1924 RodinThe first exhibition from 14 May to 15 June 1905 took place with great interest in the recently completed Royal Museum of Fine Arts of Antwerp and was a retrospective dedicated to Henri Leys and Henri de Braekeleer.
This was followed by a new exhibition every year (from 1905 till 1940) where members could show their works to the public.
Exhibitions were organised with works by a.o. Auguste Rodin, Constant Permeke, Gustave & Leon De Smet, Gustave Van de Woestijne, Rik Wouters, Eugeen Van Mieghem.
The list of exhibitions and members is too long to be listed here.
During the Second World War several founders died, whilst others moved abroad. This meant the decline of this cercle, who closed his doors after a final exhibition in 1959.
Sources :
- LFM, In dienst van de kunst KMSKA 1991 - Antwerps mecenaat rond Kunst van Heden 1905-1959
- De Zondag 'krant' - Meubelmaker met passie voor kunst - zondag 13 februari 2005
- Stijn Vanclooster, 'Het begin der historische opfrissing. De Kapel: artistieke beweging rond 1900'... AMVC, 2003

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