Studio: international art — 17.1899

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Emile Claus



Among the few living artists in whom
Belgium takes pride, and who bear aloft
in foreign lands the banner of Flemish art, at a
time when artistic cosmopolitanism is steadily
weakening the fertile influence of local tradition;
among the artists whose characteristic talent and
temperament deserve to be more widely known
and appreciated beyond the borders of their native
land, a foremost place is held by Emile Claus.

It is to artists such as Claus that Belgium owes
the enviable position she holds in the modern art
movement. Few as they are in point of actual
numbers, they may be considered relatively numer-
ous when the comparative insignificance of Belgium,
both geographical and political, is considered ; and
thus their admirable little
country has become one of
the most active art centres
of the world, capable of
holding its own, by virtue
of its enlightenment, its
vitality, its originality,
against all comers. “No
art in Belgium. It has
left the country.” So
wrote Charles Baudelaire.

The words were unjust in
1865, and were he alive to-
day the author of “ Fleurs
du Mai ” would not dare
to repeat them now. Bel-
gian art needs no defence.

It has fought its own inde-
pendent way, and is now
recognised, admired, and
envied all the world over.

Belgium itself was hardest
to conquer, for “ a prophet
is without honour in his
own country ”; but when
Vienna and Berlin, and
Munich and Venice, and
even Pittsburg, had show-
ered their highest distinc-
tions on the Belgian
sculptors and painters,
whose works had aroused
only a passing curiosity in
Brussels and Ghent and
Antwerp, the public dis-
covered it was time to be
XVII. No. 77.—August, iS

proud of these men; and this fact once recog-
nised, appreciation soon became general and

Emile Claus was born at Vive-Saint-Eloi, in
Western Flanders, in 1849. His father—Emile
was the sixteenth child—kept a grocery and pro-
vision shop by the weir on the Lys, his customers
being chiefly the boatmen passing to and fro. This
was not a very favourable soil for artistic instinct,
but the boy was hardly out of long-clothes before
he determined to become a painter. By way of a
start his worthy father, proud at the child’s ambi-
tion, sent him off to a friend of his at Lille to
learn—the pastry business! Confectionery may
be an art, but Emile Claus thought otherwise.
After ten months of apprenticeship he could stand
it no longer, and announced to his father that
rather than continue at the work he loathed he



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