The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp reopens for the first time in 11 years, but I look for a female artist in the museum room with a magnifying glass. Where are the women hidden in the collection?

Only 1.21% of the artworks in the KMSKA collection were painted or sculpted by women. This is evident from the figures requested by the VRT NWS. If you don’t count inventory, the percentage is even lower, but every piece of art in your depot is counted separately.

Chief Curator Nico Van Hout said of the unknown female artist: Most female artists at the time could only paint because someone in their family was already an artist.

Only 28 female artists have exhibited their work in the museum.

Nico Van Hout, KMSKA Chief Curator

What was considered “good”, i.e. what had to be kept in the museum, was decided by the men. This also means that women are rarely included in historical art collections like KMSKA. 76 points out of a total of 6,263 points. Highlight five of the most impressive from the collection.

The oldest self-portrait by a woman

To be fair, the oldest self-portrait in our area is not in Antwerp, but in Basel, Switzerland. Painted here by an Antwerp artist Catherine of HemessenKMSKA maintains another anonymous portrait of Van Hemessen, which can be viewed below.

As the daughter of the famous painter Jan Saunders van Hemmessen, she had access to his studio almost 500 years ago, and was probably trained there by her own father. Van Hemessen was exceptionally admitted to the Guild of St. Luke and given permission to teach.

Portrait of a Woman, Katharina van Hemessen

pioneer of still life

Clara Peters According to KMSKA, the founder of fish still life painting, it was a popular genre in the 17th century. At that time, fish was the most important part of the diet. Peters specialized in this type of still life, probably because as a female artist she was not allowed to paint naked models. The kitchen was the safer place.

Thirty-nine autographed paintings by Clara Peters have been preserved, including this painting of koi and pike. Her signature is on the bottom left corner of the table. Similar works can be found in the Prado Museum in Madrid and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. Peeters is one of five women of her era whose works are preserved in her KMSKA.

Still life with fish, Clara Peters


The few female artists of the 17th century had to make do with what they found at home, Micarina Wortier I will go anywhere. She shared a painting studio with her brother in Brussels, where she was also able to work with her live models. Her work was so popular that Archduke Leopold-Wilhelm owned four of her paintings.

It is unknown who painted Wautier here, but they could be the painter’s nieces.For a long time, experts believed that Thomas Willeboirts Boschartthis painting was attributed to Michaelina Wautier only 19 years ago.

Two Girls, Micarina Wartier as St. Agnes and Dorothea

The most famous cat painter.

The green salon of the museum houses this painting, titled “Immodest”. Henriette Ronner-Knip It gained fame in Brussels at the end of the 19th century. In those days, cats became popular pets for citizens, and Loner his Knip was there like a chicken. Beautifully decorated and playful cats have become her trademark. Salon audiences loved her scenes.

Henriette learned the trade from his father, Josephus Augustus Knip, best known as a landscape painter. This painting was purchased by KMSKA at her reduced price of 4,500 francs in 1898.

cubism in museums

As described, “My first painting in Cubist style” Marthe Donas This still life itself is in her notebook. In the early 20th century, 17-year-old Martedonas takes lessons at her Academy in Antwerp, against her father’s wishes. During World War I she went to Paris, where she discovered Cubism in 1916.

© SABAM Belgium, 2022, Malte Donas, Still Life, 2948, Photo: Hugo Maertens, KMSKA Collection - Flemish Community

and now?

KMSKA recognizes that the backlog of the past can never be eliminated, but the museum wants to pay special attention to contemporary female artists. On the Museum Square in front of the museum is the Spanish Inverted Fountain. Christina Iglesias And later this year, a new work of art by a Flemish artist will be placed on an empty pedestal at the entrance Lili Dugerie Posted.The mosaic floor above the stairs was invented by a Belgian-Lebanese Marie Zolamian.

View of Marie Zoramian's new mosaic © Karin Borghouts

“As a museum, we need to keep up to date with the latest information,” says Nico Van Hout of KMSKA. We want to welcome visitors to the hall, but the collection is just that, no black or female Michelangelo, if you look at the art, the past of Western Europe: it’s white and Christian, moving today’s society into the past I can not do it.”

There are no black or female Michelangelos

Nico Van Hout, KMSKA Chief Curator

“We cannot reconcile historical inequalities between men and women, or between heterosexuals and homosexuals. We can point to where the past went wrong,” concludes Van Hout. attached. “That image can only be changed through exhibitions and collaborations with contemporary artists.”

What about KMSKA’s Congolese past?

Just this week, dozens of ‘De Morgen’ experts and activists are calling on museums to pay attention, too. Congolese man dies in Museum SquareAntwerp then hosted the World’s Fair, for which the Congolese village was rebuilt. A total of 144 Congolese were exhibited in the so-called human zoo. “This inhumane phenomenon is downright racist and dictates stereotypes to this day,” said the signatories of the open letter. Forty-four Congolese became ill during their stay and seven died during the World’s Fair. The oldest victim he was 31 years old and he was buried in Schoonselhof in Antwerp.

KMSKA regrets the incident, but states that it did not organize a human zoo. The museum is working on Study Day in 2024, 130 years after the Expo. The museum then hopes to be able to commemorate the victims. The City Council is also looking at ways to make these events visible in the city through memorials and information panels.

The human zoo on the Museumplein in 1894, KMSKA in the background © KMSKA

Source: vrt


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