Beguinage, Bruges, 1919, colour woodcut by Yoshijiro Urushibara in the Arentshuis


Beguinage, today

A full day in Bruges, which was absolutely heaving with tourists. As one of the heavers, I can’t really complain, but it did lessen my enjoyment in wandering about the beautifully preserved town. (Like Rye, it was pickled in aspic with the retreat of the sea.)

First stop was the Groeninge Museum and admiration of van Eyck’s glowing colours:


Madonna with Canon Joris van der Paele, Jan van Eyck, 1436, oil on panel

I found a couple more 20th century paintings of biblical themes that were of their time without being completely idiosyncratic like Stanley Spencer:

img_9069I enjoyed the unexpected Frank Brangwyn exhibition in the Arentshuis; I hadn’t realised he was born in Bruges. He was obviously a prolific designer and illustrator, and I did like his sense of pattern. Everything I saw of his reminded me of other artists: his sketches of working men made me think of Käthe Kollwitz or van Gogh’s peasants, and his Slave Market of Klimt. After so many pious paintings in the last couple of days, it was refreshing to see something else.

img_9050There was also a Khnopff in the Groeninge, which was as other-worldly as usual, but it did have what might have been a Bruges scene as well. (Secret-Reflet, Ferdinand Khnopff, 1902, pastel and coloured pencil on paper.)

There were also quite of lot of Memlings in the afternoon, but by then my mind refused admittance to any further images. I was rather more taken by the Christmas markets – and sympathy for the locals who had to navigate their way around the tourist-thronged streets.

Ghent tomorrow . . . under le ciel flamand, couleur des tours de Bruges à Gand.

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