This year, the Bruges Academy for the Fine Arts celebrates its 300th anniversary of founding. Established in 1717, the Bruges Academy may count itself as one of the oldest art institutions in the Lowlands. To celebrate this occasion, the Groeningemuseum has organized an exhibition of paintings from its collection by the most important local Bruges artists from the second half of the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century. For a solid three hundred years, children, adolescents and adults have been tutored by experienced teachers and artists, and so contributed to the artistic culture of Bruges.
The Bruges Academy also played an important cultural-historical role in Europe. When the city government of Rijsel wanted to found their own academy, they came to Bruges for inspiration. In 1761, the Bruges Academy for the Fine Arts was named “the very best” (alongside an institution in Antwerp) by the General Governor de Cobenzl of the Austrian Lowlands.
Today the Academy serves as an art school for young and old alike . During the celebrations, they will base themselves on the history of the Academy to look at the present and future of the school. This month (November) the Academy will be organizing great, themed expositions in the Stadshallen and the Poortersloge.
The exhibition in the Groeningemuseum will feature works from the golden age of the Bruges Academy. The Academy trained a number of painters who later finished their education abroad. One of those painters named Jean-François Legillon was even appointed as a member of the prestigious ‘Académie Royale’ in Paris. Some of his paintings will be on display among the works of Matthias de Visch, Jan Anton Garemijn, Gerard de San, Jean-Bernard Duvivier, Albert Gregorius, Joseph-Denis Odevaere and François-Joseph Kinsoen.
At the Stadshallen, six themes will be featured on the exhibition presented by the Bruges Academy. All of these themes are contemporary but also offer a window in to history. One of these themes is “freedom”. Starting from November 8th, artist are allowed to draw, paint and sell their works. The Bruges Academy was the only democratic Academy. Anyone with talent was allowed to enter, no matter your status or rank.
“Networking” is another theme because in the world of today, who can live without it? In 1771, Joseph-Benoît Suvée won the Prix de Rome, which was pretty much the UEFA championship for painters back in the day. He enabled dozens of Belgian painters to advance their careers in Paris and Rome.
If you erased all of the buildings where architect Louise Delacenserie had a hand in, not a whole lot of downtown Bruges would remain. “Public Landscape” is a theme chosen by the school because Louise Delacenserie was an alumni and principal of the Academy. The other themes that surface in the Stadshallen exhibition are “Arts & Crafts”, “Feminism and Emancipation” and “Individualism”.
We could go a little more in depth on all of these wonderful events, but I advise you to explore them for yourselves. After all, beauty (or art for that matter) is in the eye of the beholder.