Celebrate the work of the Flemish Masters in Flanders 2018-2020

An exciting program starting in June 2018 featuring artists in Antwerp, Brussels, Bruges, Ghent Leuven and Mechelen. Peter Morrell reports

Michaelina Wautiers (1614–1689), The Triumph of Bacchus, before 1659, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna


For over 250 years, from the 15th to well into the late 17th century, Flanders was at the forefront of the finest art in Western Europe and the inspiration behind the most famous art movements of the time: Primitive, Renaissance and Baroque. The artists, renowned for their skill, creativity and technical innovation, turned an already rich and urban Flanders into one of the world’s most culturally sophisticated regions, with impressive achievements in both art and architecture.

While many of the works by these Flemish Masters can be admired all over the world, the experience is most powerful in the unique setting of Flanders, where the work was created. You can stroll around the historic setting in which Rubens lived, wander through the landscapes that inspired Pieter Bruegel the elder, and discover a painting by van Eyck in the exact location it was painted.

The recent launch of this program in London was at the Banqueting House in Whitehall, highly appropriate as the ceiling was painted by Rubens. Although ironically the paintings was produced in Antwerp on canvas before being installed in London and Rubens was too ill to ever see his work in situ. Over the three years of this exciting initiative we will be bringing you news of events and exhibitions which will take place in the the six featured cities – Antwerp, Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, Leuven and Mechelen, all beautiful in their own right.

Our first focus is on Antwerp, which for many years was the home of Rubens, his house is now a museum devoted to the artist. Starting in 2018 a cultural city festival ‘Antwerp Baroque 2018 – Rubens inspires’ pays tribute to Peter Paul Rubens and his baroque cultural legacy.

The backbone of the city festival is a series of exhibitions where Rubens and the baroque are confronted with contemporary art(ists). No less than seven museums – the Rubens House, the MAS, the Middelheim Museum, the Museum Plantin-Moretus, the FOMU, the Snijders&Rockox House and the M HKA in collaboration with the KMSKA – are running internationally renowned exhibitions. In addition, a festival programme with over 100 cultural activities will be offered. The festival runs from June 2018 to January 2019 .

More information about the complete festival programme and tickets for these exhibitions are available via www.antwerpbaroque2018.be

One of the highlights of the program will be at the Museum aan de Stroom, known as the MAS, a modern waterside gallery. The exhibition, Michaelina Baroque’s Leading Lady, tells the story of the female Baroque artist Michaelina Wautier (1614–1689) . She is know as Mysterious Michaelina and very little is known about her, Michaelin’s life is virtually undocumented. Born in Mons, the artist moved to Brussels in 1640 with her younger brother, the painter Charles Wautier. Neither of them married, and they lived together in a stately town house near the church of Notre-Dame de la Chapelle.

Wautier distinguished herself from her female colleagues because of the wide range of genres she chose to specialise in. In addition to portraits and scenes from daily life, she produced large-scale history paintings – something that even many male artists considered a daunting undertaking. To date, twenty-six of her works have been identified, testifying to her provocative themes and superior pictorial technique. She effortlessly depicted both religious themes and mythological scenes. Michaelina Wautier mastered all the contemporary genres, on both a large and a small scale, making her a unique and also extremely versatile artist.
But her real masterpiece (depicted above) is undoubtedly “The Triumph of Bacchus” (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna). This large-scale work demonstrates her candid knowledge of the male anatomy. At the same time, the artist also chose to portray herself as the bare-breasted maenad, who also happens to be the only figure that looks the viewer squarely in the eye.

This exhibition which runs from 2 June until 2 September 2018 is unique and unmissble.

More information about the Flemish Masters 2018-2020 can be found at

You can also watch a video of the Flemish Masters 2018-2020 program