CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Workshop: Puzzling art. Painting and cultural identity in sixteenth-century Bruges

Symposium: 15 September 2016

Information from the organizers, 11 July 2016

In the fall of 2017, the Groeningemuseum is organising the exhibition ‘Pieter Pourbus and the Claeissens Family. The Bruges painting world in the second half of the 16th century’ (working title – 12 October 2017 – 21 January 2018). This exhibition examines a period of the Bruges’ history of art that is less known than the heavily studied 15th century of the Flemish Primitives. The art of painting in Bruges, then, charts its own course in the second half of the 16th century. The art of this period of time is often viewed as conservative and archaic and receives little attention in the history of art. A small group of artists, including Ambrosius Benson, Lancelot Blondeel, Pieter Pourbus and the Claeissens family, made paintings for the elite, the bourgeois, the city administration and the free market. The interest of 16th century artists in compositional schemes, painting style and brush technique from the 15th century raises various questions. Who dictated this choice, the consumer or the artist? Were the people of Bruges really so conservative? Or rather, should the endurance of the 15th-century image types and painting style be viewed as the consequence of an individual, cultural identity of Bruges?

While limited knowledge of facts makes investigations into Benson and Blondeel difficult, Pourbus is primarily studied in depth. Scholars usually neglected the oeuvres of the Claeissens family because of reputed conservatism, low quality and repetition. In order to draw conclusions about the artistic choices of Bruges artists and the aesthetic valuation of the buyers, it is nonetheless essential to explain the art of all of these masters. In the research preceding the exhibition, there were important steps made in the reconstruction of the oeuvres of Pieter Claeissens I and his son Gillis Claeissens. The patrons of Pieter Pourbus were also taken into account. During this workshop, the state of affairs in the research will be reported, and there shall be plenty of time for discussion.


9.30-10.00 Arrival, registration and coffee

10.00-10.15 Word of welcome, introduction to the exhibition and research project by Anne van Oosterwijk (Groeningemuseum, Brugge)

10.15-10.45 Lecture by Heidi Deneweth (Vrije Universiteit Brussels) about Bruges in the sixteenth century

10.45-11.15 Lecture by Brecht Dewilde (KU Leuven) and Anne van Oosterwijk (Groeningemuseum Brugge) about the painter family Claeissens and the state of the research

11.15-11.45 Coffee

11.45-12.15 Lecture by Paul Huvenne (em. KMSKA and University of Antwerp) about Pieter Pourbus and Lancelot Blondeel and the state of research

12.15-12.45 Ana Diéguez Rodríguez (Instituto Moll, Madrid) about Bruges art exported to Spain

12.45-14.00 Lunch and possibility to visit the Groeningemuseum

14.00-15.30 Round table conversation with moderator Maximiliaan Martens (UGent)

15.30-16.00 Concluding remarks by Maximiliaan Martens

16.00-17.00 Reception

Where: Vriendenzaal, Groeningemuseum, Dijver 12, Bruges

Language: English and Dutch

Registration is free and can be done till 9 September 2016 by sending an email to Please mention if you have any dietary restrictions.

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