After a dark Ardennes winter and an uneven start to spring, Nel’s bright face, Rik Wauters’ woman, irresistibly attracts you to La Boverie. And the old gardener Emile Claus is the one who greets you…
We had set a meeting up at the Grand Café de la Gare. My friend comes from Brussels, and I come from my Ardennes forest balcony. She came with a lady with whom she paces through the Soignes forest just as well as exhibitions in the capital. Being almost regional to the station, I get ready to sell the merits of the restaurant established under the bright great wing of Calatrava. Useless! She knows it only too well and is excited at the idea of savouring the traditional Liege meatballs!
Two trios of meatballs enthusiastically downed and one butter and parsley cod later, we pace the esplanade towards the Meuse. The plants have prospered, especially the fargesia type bamboo (not the ones that have roots that will eventually destroy everything). “And this tower is lovely!” – it’s the Tower of Finance. – “At least here they didn’t make something ugly with our money.” The state of grace, I tell you.
At the end of the “Belle Liegoise”, what a pretty name for a bridge that spans the river, the Boverie Park and the beautiful building built to commemorate the Liege Universal Exhibition of 1905 welcome you. When you push to door of the Liege exhibition Master Pieces, you may have the impression of being in the hallway of Luminist Emile Claus’ Zonneschijn (ray of sun) villa near Laethem-Saint-Martin. In front of you, the imposing portrait of your gardener and this garden sculpted by the light that you might get ready to paint… Or has anyone already done it?
“This one, the Louvre really envies us for it!”
Purely from Liege and connoisseur does not speak to his visiting companion of Claus’s painting, but about first council Napoleon Bonaparte’s full-length portrait by Ingres. This portrait basically has the same dimensions as the gardener and the fact that they are hung one next to the other is brilliant. Majesty in the flower of age and the weight of age holding a flower.
I will, however, zoom in on the bust. In full-length portraits, we often get distracted by clothing, draperies, or whatever… Today, I am in the mood of looking at facial expressions and being sensitive to the signs of History. This portrait was a gift from Napoleon to the town of Liege in 1803. Ingres, who made this portrait on demand, anachronistically painted the Saint-Lambert cathedral, that actually was in ruins at that time since the Liege revolution of 1789. Watching this image when the emotion provoked by the fire that lit up Notre-Dame in Paris is only a couple of days old is somewhat challenging.
The most famous artwork of the Liege Beaux-Arts Museum collection shown at this exhibition include work from Monet, Picasso, Gauguin, Chagall, Magritte and Ensor. From the 16th century to modernity, the major artistic currents are represented. But we can sometimes also go to the museum simply for a canvas, a piece of art, an artist, or one’s muse. So I’m looking for it…
Yes, indeed, it is she: Nel!
And Nel, yet again …
Rik Wauters’s luminous talent, leader of the Brabant fauvism who spent most of his too-short life in Watermael-Boitsfort and for whom Nel, his companion, was an inspiring model and an inspiration, united these three friends today in La Boverie.
There are so many things to discover in an environment that remarkably showcase artwork that the decision is made to come back soon. As we sip a coffee at the “canteen” of the museum called – have a wild guess: Madame Boverie. No “bovaryen” spleen to fear, but a little treat to enjoy: the Wi-Fi code for visitors is emma123456.
Exhibition Liege. Master Pieces until 18.8.19 – www.laboverie.com
Sunday 12 May at 2pm family visit “The museum and the light”
Sunday 15 May at 2pm thematic visit “Art and modernity”
And in order to discover real plain air paintings, let us go to Hasselt…
Text: Germaine Fanchamps
Translation: Andrea Johnson-Ferguson
Photographs: City of Liège, Katrien Bruyland, Germaine Fanchamps