Théo Van Rysselberghe, The Lecture by Emile Verhaeren, 1906

One hundred years after his death, the Museum of Fine Arts Ghent (MSK) paid homage to Emile Verhaeren (1855-1916), a key protagonist in the Belgian cultural landscape around the turn of the century. We invited visitors to rediscover the fin de siècle art world through the eyes of the writer who witnessed it from the front row. The exhibition coincided with the opening of our new Drawings Cabinet, in which the museum can now more fully exhibit its impressive collection of art on paper.

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Privileged witness
Emile Verhaeren was a poet and art critic who enjoyed an international reputation during his lifetime. Between 1880 and 1916, he closely followed the development of avant-garde art in Belgium. He defended naturalism and socially engaged art, Impressionism, Neo-Impressionism and Symbolism. Above all, he was a defender of modernity, which he discovered in the art of his time.

Verhaeren captured the emotions, passions and artistic controversies of the day in his poetry and writings. Over 100 years later, they allow us to rediscover the work of national and international artists through the eyes of an idiosyncratic connoisseur.

International masterpieces
The exhibition brought to life the historical and artistic context from which the poet-critic’s oeuvre emerged. As a starting point, we drew upon the museum’s own rich collection of paintings, sculptures and works on paper.

At the same time, a wide range of works from international public and private collections travelled to Ghent, including pieces by Auguste Rodin, Paul Signac, Maximilien Luce and Odilon Redon. Works by artists such as Léon Frédéric, Eugène Laermans and Constantin Meunier, Jan Toorop and Guillaume Vogels, Henry Van de Velde, Fernand Khnopff and George Minne were also not to be missed.

Opening of the Drawings Cabinet
The opening of the Verhaeren exhibition coincided with the inauguration of the new Drawings Cabinet. In these eight rooms, and through changing displays, the MSK can henceforth make its multifaceted collection of works on paper accessible to the public. For this exhibition, we delved into our exceptional holdings of Ensor prints and precious books, for example.