Fantastically Real

Belgian Modern Art from Ensor to Magritte

15 October 20216 March 2022

The Kunsthalle München is showcasing masterpieces of Belgian modern art from circa 1860 to 1960. With some 130 paintings, graphic works and sculptures, the exhibition illustrates how the art of this period constantly re-explored the boundaries between fantasy and reality. It highlighted both the unpretentious reality of everyday life and the secrets and mysteries that lie beyond the visible world. The exhibition traces the specific path taken by Belgian art, from realistic scenes of ordinary people and atmospheric
landscapes to James Ensor’s fantastic masquerades, through to the surreal worlds of Paul Delvaux and René Magritte. In addition to major names such as these, the roughly 40 artists in the exhibition include numerous artists whose work is famous in Belgium but not widely known abroad, like Eugène Laermans, Constant Permeke, Marthe Donas and Rik Wouters.

Reality Meets Fantasy

Two opposing forces – the Real and the Fantastic – combine to weave the fascinating spell of Belgian art. The supernatural dwells in the back rooms of reality, where fantasy’s dreams and mysteries lurk in hidden corners. This phenomenon is based on the lifelike, highly detailed depictions of the early Flemish painting tradition by masters such as Jan van Eyck or Pieter Brueghel the Elder. In the modern era, the dualism of the Real and the Fantastic emerges as a central characteristic of Belgian art. On the one hand it continued to be closely associated with a Realist tradition. On the other hand, taking the real world as its starting point, the Fantastic invariably invoked the mystery of things, over and over again.

Antwerp’s Modern Treasures in Munich

The exhibition is a cooperation with the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp, which loaned the majority of works on display. The current refurbishment of the museum offers a unique opportunity to show its highlights of modern art in the Kunsthalle München. Other important loans from museums and private collections complement this multifaceted presentation full of new discoveries.

Exhibition leaflet

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