Meet the key players of 125 years of patronage | MSK Gent
Ga naar inhoud (Enter)
Popular searches

Meet the key players of 125 years of patronage

Zaal De Bruycker 1
Exhibition view Room I with works by Jules De Bruycker, as well as the correspondence with his patron René Van Herreweghe, recently acquired by The Friends of the Museum under the impetus of current president Willy Van der Gucht.

Already for 125 years, the association The Friends of the Museum has played a crucial role in acquiring works of art for the MSK's collection. Successive generations of board members realised a particularly successful patronage in which the chairs took (and continue to take) the lead. Read below all about the activities of the ten presidents who selflessly devoted themselves since 1897. Or come discover it for yourself in the museum via a trail.

Fernand Scribe 
chairman from 1897 until 1913

A wealthy retiree – he came from a family of Ghent industrialists – Fernand Scribe devoted his life to the fine arts. He painted himself, befriended numerous Belgian and foreign artists of his time, and often travelled to Paris to persuade painters and sculptors to participate in the Ghent art salons. Scribe became one of the inspirers of the art life of his home city, and of the further development of the MSK in particular.

Inspired by examples in Germany, Fernand Scribe founded the Société des Amis du Musée de Gand in December 1897. His aim was to group Ghent art lovers – some 150 at the time of foundation – and to collect the necessary funds to enrich the museum collection. Partly thanks to Scribe’s drive, the association of friends succeeded in acquiring numerous valuable works of art – by Anthony van Dyck, Peter Paul Rubens, Jacob Jordaens, Théodore Géricault and Gustave Courbet, among others – around the turn of the century and subsequently donated them to the museum.

Over the course of his life, Scribe himself also built a multifaceted collection. He not only collected contemporary art, but also put together an important collection of old masters, applied art and furniture. Upon his death in 1913, this collection was bequeathed to the city of Ghent and subsequently divided between the Museum voor Sierkunsten (now Design Museum Gent) and the MSK. To this day, this donation remains one of the highlights in the history of the institution’s collection development

Georges Hulin de Loo
chairman from 1913 until 1945

After his study years in Ghent, Berlin, Strasbourg and Paris, Georges Hulin worked at the faculties of Arts and Philosophy, Sciences and Law at Ghent University and the Higher Institute for Art History in the same city, which was founded in 1920. An expert on old Flemish art, he enjoyed an international renown, e.g. for the critical catalogue he compiled of the groundbreaking Exposition des primitifs flamands et d’art ancien in Bruges in 1902.

His expertise and network was of golden value to the association The Friends of the Museum, of which he was a founding member and, between 1913 and 1945, its president, succeeding Fernand Scribe. During this period, Hulin (after c. 1900 ‘Hulin de Loo’) played a crucial role in the acquisition by the Friends of a large number of collection pieces, including Christ Carrying the Cross by Hieronymus Bosch (Room B). An active private collector, he donated paintings from his own collection, including Puccio di Simone and Théodore Rousseau (Room S). The latter artist’s name indicates that he was not exclusively interested in ancient art; the works by Maurice de Vlaminck, Tsugouharu Leonard Foujita, Moïse Kisling, Amedeo Modigliani and Jean Puy, among others, that he gave on loan during the interwar period sensitively enhanced contemporary art in the museum’s collection. Before a final agreement with the museum was signed, Hulin de Loo died in an accident in 1945.

Georges Van de Velde
chairman from 1946 until 1951

The Ghent lawyer Georges Van de Velde was chairman of The Friends of the Museum from 1946 to 1951, but as treasurer he was closely involved in the association even before that (1938–46). His name first crops up in correspondence in December 1939 when the Friends bought two paintings by old masters, Vanity Piece by J. Hendrickszoon van Zuylen (room 15), and Paul de Vos’ Buffalo Attacked by Dogs (room 13). Although the association continued to devote attention to the work of old masters during the following decade, their 
interest also went to the ‘classical moderns’ of the second half of the nineteenth century, e.g. Edouard Agneessens, Louis Artan, Henri Evenepoel, David and Pieter Oyens, Félicien Rops (room 14), Alfred Stevens and Théo Van Rysselberghe (room R).

Correspondence from museum director Maurice Dupuis shows that until 1946, purchases were largely determined by chairman Georges Hulin de Loo, with payment only thereafter being divided among the budgets of the City and the Friends. Van de Velde himself would indeed leave a lasting mark on the museum collection in later years. At the end of his presidency, the Friends acquired the masterpiece The Adoration of the Magi by Colijn de Coter (room 1), through the intervention of Auguste Taevernier, who succeeded him as president in 1951.

Auguste Taevernier
chairman from1951 until 1976

Under Auguste Taevernier’s presidency, the Friends of the Museum regained the momentum that had characterised the years under the leadership of Fernand Scribe and Georges Hulin de Loo. The association saw its membership rise to over 1,000 and through the creation of a so-called Junior Section, additional attention was explicitly focused on young people. Alongside, Taevernier also worked out an updated acquisition strategy: the focus should essentially be on important, leading works of art – this by saving available funds or borrowing additional funding – rather than acquiring two or three works which, he felt, would only add to the museum depots. This deliberate policy choice allowed the Friends to acquire, under Taevernier’s chairmanship, among other outstanding 17th-century realisations by Roelant Savery, by Cornelis de Vos and by Jan van Goyen, and the neoclassical Self-Portrait by Josse Van den Abeele. 

At a later stage, Taevernier would attach his name to the collection through his knowledge of and love for the oeuvre of James Ensor. In 1998, on the occasion of its centenary, the Society of Friends acquired a unique ensemble of Ensor etchings through a so-called ‘Ensor Action’. Taevernier had assembled this ensemble during the 1930s, and he incorporated his knowledge of this graphic oeuvre into an oeuvre catalogue in 1973. The collection comprises a total of 185 prints. It is of remarkable quality and the mere fact that it includes all the prints Ensor ever etched is exceptional.

To this day, this collection of etchings adds an additional dimension to the multifaceted collection of modern art kept by the MSK.

Charles Dael
chairman from 1976 until 1991

Ghent notary Charles Dael chaired the museum’s association of friends from 1976–91. During his presidency, the collection was enriched with exceptional works by James Ensor, Oskar Kokoschka, Gustave Van de Woestyne and Théo Van Rysselberghe. In 1990, he was the initiator of the Museumkrant (the Museum’s Journal), a quarterly magazine that has since highlighted the ins and outs of the association and the museum. He was also responsible for the financing of museum publications, the restoration treatment of works of art and the expansion of the museum library. A collector of old masters drawings, Dael’s interest also extended to contemporary art. In 1968–69, he was in charge of organising two exhibitions with works by Pjeroo Roobjee,
Wilfried Sybrands, Camiel Van Breedam and Roger Wittevrongel, among others, in the Ghent borough of Ledeberg, where his notarial office was located.

With his efforts for Ghent’s cultural life, he continued a family tradition dating back to Auguste Dael, for many years chairman of the Cercle artistique et littéraire in Ghent and, as a wealthy painter, at the same time a patron of other artists.

Paul Eeckhout
chairman from 1991 until 1993

Although Paul Eeckhout essentially attached himself to the MSK as museum’s director during the period from 1948 to 1982, he played a prominent role in the association of friends for many years, successively as secretary, vice-president and, for three years, as acting president. Along the lines of his predecessor Auguste Taevernier, he too paid attention to the rejuvenation of the association. Furthermore, during his acting presidency, Eeckhout devoted himself to the growth of the important ensemble of sculptures and works on paper that the MSK preserves from George Minne. Witness the donation he made in 1991 of a sketchbook page with figure studies, a record of Minne’s designs during the years 1894–1896.

Prior to his presidency, Paul Eeckhoutplayed a key role in the Friends’ Association’s acquisition of Théo Van Rysselberghe’s Portrait of Marguerite Van Mons. Purchased in 1978, the painting came from the collection of Thomas Braun, lawyer, poet and collector to whom Marguerite Van Mons would marry, and of whom Paul Eeckhout was a direct descendant.

Paul Van Haute
chairman from 1993 until 1996

After training in art education and the Higher Institute of Art History and Archaeology, Paul Van Haute became a lecturer at SaintLucas college (the current Luca School of Arts). He was president of the association of 
friends from 1993 to 1996. For many years, he determined the content line, was editorin-chief and was responsible for the design of the Museum journal, a publication of the Friends. Van Haute was closely involved in museum life. He played a supporting role in the expansion of the educational operation and the children’s workshop. Until his death in 2011, MSK could gratefully make use of his expertise in 19th- and 20th-century Belgian art in the preparation and accompanying fundraising of purchases of works by James Ensor, among others.

Maximiliaan P.J. Martens
chairman from 1996 until 1999 and from 2014 until 2015

After finishing his studies at Ghent University, Maximiliaan Martens obtained his PhD at the University of California. He then worked at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Malibu, the Metropolitan Museum in New York and the University of Groningen, and since October 2003 at his alma mater’s Department of Art, Music and Theatre Studies. As a researcher of and exhibition maker on art in the Southern Netherlands, he was active in both the United States and Europe. Martens was Chairman of the Friends in 1996–99 and 2014–15.

Before the turn of the century, he played an important role in organising the 1997 celebrations to mark the museum’s 200th founding anniversary, when the entire graphic oeuvre of James Ensor was acquired following the Paris-Bruxelles exhibition.

Together with Paul Van Haute, his predecessor as Chairman of the Friends, Arnout Balis and museum director Robert Hoozee, he was one of the editors of the collection book (2000). Twenty years later, the museum could still call on his expertise when he was one of the curators of the exhibition Van Eyck. An Optical Revolution.

Dany Vandenbossche 
chairman from 1999 until 2013

Dany Vandenbossche studied law and criminology at Ghent University and was an assistant at the Faculty of Law at his Alma mater until 1990. He divided his political career between Brussels and Ghent. He was deputy chief of cabinet of ministers Louis Tobback and Luc Van den Bossche and a member of the national Chamber of Representatives and the Flemish Parliament. At local level, he successively held the mandates of councillor, vice-chairman of the OCMW and alderman for culture. After his political career, he became a director of several companies and cultural organisations. As board member of the association of friends, and chairman from 1999 until his sudden death in 2013, he played a crucial role in financing the high-profile exhibitions Paris-Bruxelles (1997) and British Vision (2007).

Under his chairmanship, the Friends supported the museum’s growing focus on twentieth-century modern art, including the acquisition of masterpieces by C.R.W. Nevinson and Georges Vantongerloo.

Jan Op de Beeck
chairman from 2015 until 2019

Thanks to the efforts of the association of Friends under the chairmanship of Jan Op de Beeck, the museum was essentially able to further optimize its infrastructure in function of presenting works on paper. Because the
drawn work plays a crucial role in the creative process, the expansion of the collection of works on paper is an important pillar in the MSK’s collection policy. The emphasis here is mainly, but not exclusively, on 19th- and
20th-century art. The aim is to acquire representative works by national and also international artists who had a strong connection with Belgium or exercised their influence there.

In order to make this valuable collection more visible, the MSK, with the financial support of the Friends, commissioned a mobile installation with chests of drawers, display cases and lecterns designed by Robbrecht and Daem architects. Until today, this installation offers the opportunity to exhibit the versatile but usually invisible collection of works on paper. In addition to drawings, prints and pastels, precis books and magazines, artists’ folders and manuscripts are also included in the presentation. On the occasion of the exhibition Verhaeren Revealed. The Writer-Critic and the Art of his Time (2016), the facility was inaugurated. At the conclusion of this exhibition, the Society of Friends purchased Auguste Rodin’s sculpture Sorrow. In addition to its undeniable artistic value, Sorrow has significant historical value (gallery 15). As illustrated at the exhibition, it attests to the close relationship between the sculptor and Emile Verhaeren, who received this sculpture as a gift.