It’s raining cats and dogs and I wear two sweaters, thick and immobile like the Michelin man. Our tram number 92 drops us off into the heart of Brussels, and we trudge the dreary umbrella weather to the Palais des Beaux Arts.
Rosine, Philippe, Céline and I are about to get a dose of culture today by way of Constant Permeke, a new-to-me artist but way old news, actually, given that he is considered the father of Flemmish Expressionism, a movement from the last century and beyond.
His first painting, a massive tome of an oil painting, thick and turbulent with muddy North Sea waters, the strokes heavy and tar like, as if he the artist were carving through something, trudging through his own pit of solitude, swallows you whole, enveloping your periphery to the point of feeling the frigid sea foam on your skin, tingling in saltiness.
Permeke’s art, I discover, is of the earth, literally, as his color is ochre and subject the farmer, an homage to the eternal Flemmish, and I find some of his pieces highly emotional and evocative in their profound simplicity and truthfulness of this land’s toils and struggles. Critiqued for being basic and simplistic in his subject matter, for being so focused on the ignoble, I find quite the opposite–connection to the life force, muddy in his color scheme just like the paysan experience.
Nice work, Permeke.