CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Nature’s Mirror: Reality and Symbol in Belgian Landscape

Exhibition: 10 September - 10 December 2017

Since the Renaissance, art in the region of Belgium and the nearby Netherlands has been known for innovations in realistic representation of visual appearances and for an extraordinary fluency in symbolism. The development of landscape as an independent genre was fostered by new market forces and artistic concerns in Belgium in the sixteenth century, and landscape emerged as a major focus for nineteenth-century realist and symbolist artists. Nature’s Mirror: Reality and Symbol in Belgian Landscape traces these landmark developments with a rich array of seldom-seen works.

Illustrating the birth of landscape art, Nature’s Mirror opens with important prints and drawings by artists like Pieter Bruegel, Hieronymus Cock, Paul Brill, and Roelandt Savery. The exhibition then explores the evolving dialogue between subjective experience and the external world by featuring major modern works by artists from the School of Tervuren and symbolists including Fernand Khnopff and William Degouve de Nuncques.

Displaying more than 120 works, many from the leading private collection of Belgian art in America, the Hearn Family Trust, Nature’s Mirror examines the wealth of artistic expression that bloomed in the regions of Belgium in an unprecedented fashion. In addition to works of the nineteenth century, the exhibition also includes drawings by Paul Bril, Abraham Bloemaert, Barend and Valentin Klotz, and prints by Pieter and Jan Bruegel, Hieronymus Cock, Jacob de Gheyn, Hendrik Goltzius, Joannes van Doetecum and Hans Bol.


The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue edited by Jeffery Howe, with essays by American and Belgian scholars that examine artists such as Fernand Khnopff and Léon Spilliaert within the regional contexts that strongly influenced them. Other contributions discuss the transition of Belgian realism to symbolism, George Minne’s poetic illustrations, and themes of industrialization and labor.