Antoine Wiertz


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(b Dinant, 22 Feb. 1806; d Brussels, 18 June 1865).

Belgian painter, one of the great eccentrics in the history of art. In 1832 he won the Belgian Prix de Rome and when he visited Italy in 1834 he was overwhelmed by Michelangelo. His other great artistic hero was Rubens and he tried to follow in their footsteps with enormous and high-flown religious, historical, and allegorical canvases. The results now seem almost dementedly bombastic and melodramatic, but he had many admirers among his countrymen. The Belgian government was keen to promote a national school of painting and in 1850–1 built him a special studio in Brussels (now the Musée Wiertz). He worked there in isolation for the rest of his life, regarding himself as an artist-philosopher and totally convinced of his own genius. Some of his work is erotic or macabre in character and presages Belgian Symbolism (Thoughts and Visions of a Severed Head, 1853, Mus. Wiertz).

Subjects: Art.

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