Within the specific Belgian context, the terms abstract and modern art serve primarily as synonyms at the beginning of the 20th century. In the collection of Mu.ZEE in Ostend, the two concepts go hand in hand in the oeuvre of various artists who occupied themselves with the non-figurative tendencies. This began somewhere at some point, but shall never end.
The first generation of abstract artists is represented in the collection with works from, among others: Felix De Boeck (1898 - 1995), Prosper De Troyer (1880 - 1961), Pierre-Louis Flouquet (1900 - 1967), Paul Joostens (1889 - 1960), Jos Léonard (1892 - 1957), Jozef Peeters (1895 - 1960), Jules Schmalzigaug (1882 - 1917), Georges Vantongerloo (1886 - 1965) and Victor Servranckx (1897 - 1965). As pioneers of the ‘Pure Plasticism’, between local and international recognition, these artist have paved the way for a second wave of abstract artists who were primarily successful in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The collection of Mu.ZEE in Ostend also houses abstract work from, among others: Jan Burssens (1925 - 2002), Jo Delahaut (1911 - 1992), Walter Leblanc (1932 - 1986), Luc Peire (1916 - 1994), Gilbert Swimberghe (1927 - 2015), Englebert Van Anderlecht (1918 - 1961), Paul Van Hoeydonck (1925) and Dan Van Severen (1927 - 2009).
Abstract Modernism forms one of the major pillars in the core collection of Mu.ZEE in Ostend. With the renovation (1982 - 1986) of the large SEO warehouse on the Romestraat designed by Gaston Eysselinck, the acquisition policy regarding abstract art from 1900 to the present has experienced a surge. The majority of the collection of abstract art (sculptures, paintings, drawings and works in mixed techniques) was acquired in the 1980’s and 1990’s via gifts, legates and purchases from (national) galleries and private collections.
One of the first Belgian painters who engaged in (semi)abstract art is the Futurist Jules Schmalzigaug. In preparation for a large monographic exhibition on the artist, Mu.ZEE purchased a canvas in 1016 (Untitled, ca. 1915) from the heirs of the painter. Just as dynamically abstract Schmalzigaug worked, thus did abstract painters Georges Vantongerloo (Study I, Brussels, 1920) and Victor Servranckx (Opus 13, 1924) do so geometrically.
Jo Delahauts’s minimalistic composition Adina (1953), existing out a few tonalities and repetitions of elementary forms, stands on par with the purified compositions of Dan Van Severen and is merely emotionally removed from the lyrical abstract of Englebert Van Anderlecht in Composition (The Milky Way) from 1954.
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