Published: March 2007
A New Key: Modern Belgian Art from the Simon Collection” opened at the McMullen Museum on February 11 and features works created between 1889 and 1946. On display for the first time in North America, these 49 paintings, four sculptures, and one drawing are from the collection of Henry and Francoise Simon, a German couple who own “the finest assemblage of modern Belgian art outside Belgium,” according to McMullen’s director Nancy Netzer.
Because of Paris’s primacy as an artistic center prior to World War II, art history texts overlook Belgian art of that era in favor of “already famous” works from France, writes art historian Sura Levine in the show’s catalog. The McMullen’s exhibit highlights Belgian artists’ distinctive approach to light, still life, Expressionism, and Surrealism. “These works are not only extraordinarily beautiful, but they offer a fascinating window into the development of modern art,” said Professor Jeffery Howe, exhibition curator and a leading American historian of modern Belgian art.
In the audio portion of this presentation, Howe discusses works that exemplify the themes of the show: landscape and village life, work, still lifes, the human figure, the horror of World War I, and the “fantastic and carnivalesque”—themes that have roots in Flemish art dating back to the elder Pieter Breughel in the 16th century.
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