The Daily Heller: Belgium’s Vital Modernism

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Since the coronavirus began rearing its ugly spores, Merrill Berman has been making his remarkable collection of Modern avant gardes available online. The most recent is a body of art and applied work that came from Belgium (the little country that could). Following the "war to end all wars (WW1)," avant-gardists developed new forms and unprecedented vocabularies of graphic and textile art and design. Het Overzicht (The Overview) was its leading periodical. Brussels and Antwerp were the artistic hot zones – vital centers of the Modern spirit.

Textile sketch by Jozef Peeters, 1923
Cover of 6 Linos by Jozef Peeters, 1921
Jozef Peeters, 8 Linocuts, 1922.
Jozef Peeters, Portfolio cover for Het Overzicht, series II, nos. 13-24, 1923-1924, 1925.
Preliminary letter design by Jozef Peeters, c. 1924
9 Woodcuts by Jan Cockx, 1921
Jozef Peeters Preliminary design for announcements of Moderne Dichten (Modern Poems) recited by Germaine Michielsen, introduced by Marnix Gijsen), 1921.
Jozef Peeters Announcement pole for the artists’ group Kring Moderne Kunst (Circle of Modern Art), c. 1920.

"In largely Francophone Brussels, the nation’s capital, avant-garde artists who gathered around galleries such as l’Époque and Le Centaur and journals such as Variétés (1928–1930) tended to orient themselves toward French culture and, in the late 1920s, toward Parisian Surrealism," Berman writes. "Artists active in the predominantly Flemish-/Dutch-speaking port city of Antwerp to the north, by contrast, were more inclined toward Holland and Germany and the abstract, constructivist tendencies emerging there."