Rubens: painter, interior architect and designer
Rubens is an artistic jack-of-all-trades: painter and diplomat, architect and... designer. As a designer, he produces sketches for silver jugs, dishes and other luxury artefacts, asking friends who are young and talented artists to produce the objects.
Rubens could be considered the forerunner of Gesamtkunstwerk. This is an all-embracing art form that showcases the artist's eye for aesthetics. In other words, Rubens not only valued paintings, but also architecture, furniture, silverware... A number of letters written by Rubens have been preserved and these were addressed to the Bishop of the church from whom he had received a commission and insisted upon the refurbishment of the church. The painter also put his stamp on the decoration of the St Carolus Borromeus church at the Conscience square in Antwerp.
Artistic inspiration often expresses itself in a multidisciplinary fashion. Belgian Art Nouveau architect Henry van de Velde went even further than Rubens by designing the clothing of the people living in the house. One of Henry van de Velde's masterpieces is the Boekentoren in Ghent.
Flanders also has important post-war designers: Jules Wabbes, the brothers De Coene, Alfred Hendrickx, Willy Van Der Meeren, Pieter De Bruyne, Christophe Gevers, Muller - Van Severen... There are two well-known vintage streets in Belgium where you may occasionally still find one of their original pieces of furniture. Most shops are also conveniently open on Sundays:
In Antwerp, head to the Kloosterstraat.
In Brussels, the Rue Haute, Rue Blaes and the Zavel neighbourhood are the places to be.
Nowhere else in the world are the art cities in such close proximity as in Flanders.
Interested in finding out more about the originality of Belgian design? Here is a selection that I can highly recommend:
A stunning collection of contemporary Belgian designers at Gallery Valerie Traan or visit the quirky Winkelhaak.
BKRK (Bokrijk Brandmerkt), is a museum that showcases the relevance in this day and age of craftsmanship such as baking bread, leather processing, pottery making and forging. This museum is also a must-see attraction for children.
'Handmade' organises creative events around traditional design.