Belgian Impressionism

Around 1880 an indigenous Impressionism took shape in Belgium, drawing on the innovations of the realists. Realist plein-air landscape painters, for example, depicted the play of light and shade and showed a preference for bright colours. An important step was taken when Ensor introduced a clearly perceptible “poetry of light” into his “bourgeois interiors”. Henri De Braekeleer also experimented along similar lines. But it was when French artists began to exhibit in Belgium after 1886 with the group known as Les XX that Belgian Impressionism really made a breakthrough. This gained momentum the following year when Georges Seurat’s Un dimanche à la Grande Jatte was exhibited in Brussels. Thanks to this manifesto of neo-Impressionism, the technique of “Pointillism” was introduced to Belgium at an early date. But it was not until 1904 that the triumph of French Impressionism was confirmed during an exhibition of La Libre Esthétique, in which Belgium was represented by the Vie et Lumière group, founded in 1904, which introduced “Luminism” as a (late) Belgian current in Impressionism.


  • ÉMILE CLAUS, The flood, 1892, oil on canvas. Collection Belfius Bank