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David Veltman MA

PhD candidate


Area(s) of interest: Art History, Oral History & Life Writing, Biography

Cohort/Start PhD: 2016-2017

Biography Felix De Boeck (1898-1995)

University of Groningen
Promotor(es): Prof. dr. Hans Renders, Prof. dr. Jo Tollebeek
Aanstelling: vanaf september 2016

The artist Felix De Boeck (1898-1995) lived and worked most of his life on his farm at Drogenbos, near Brussels. He wanted to be seen as the artist who had to earn his living as a farmer, and dismissed the Romantic image of a painting farmer. Therefore, he could only work on his paintings on Sundays. In egodocuments, contributions to periodicals and interviews he used to present himself as the loner, who did not belong to an artist’s group or movement, and wanted to present his work preferably in solo-exhibitions.
During his life, De Boeck’s work developed in the direction of greater abstraction. At the beginning of his artistic career, he was greatly influenced by movements such as fauvism, cubism and futurism. But in this early work also a religious factor and an interest in nature’s treasures was already an essential feature. He did not only choose a physical distance between the metropolitan art centres – Paris, Antwerp – of his time. He also tried to give a new interpretation to modernism itself, with its rejection of the ‘natural’ or the use of religious themes in art.
In this biography attention will be given to the tensions arising in culture and society after De Boeck’s decision to live his life as a farmer. How did he join the artist’s debate on modernism and the Flemish activism? How was his opinion on this art influenced by World War I and II? How could he be influenced by Van Gogh or Picasso? Which position did he have in the group surrounding the art periodicals Les Sept Arts and Het Overzicht? And how did he live during his self-chosen retreat from public life after the death of his parents, brother and children? How did this life as a hermit contribute to the mythologization of De Boeck’s person? The research is of importance for the knowledge of the history of modernist art in Belgium. Did this art develop only in the metropolitan cities, in which many of the avant-garde groups searched for renewal of the arts, or is there something like an ‘arcadian modernism’ in Belgian 20th century art?