I found this woodcut at a flea market in Belgium some 15 years ago. I remember the only thing that the seller mentioned at the time was that it was from some Belgian anarchist artist of the 20s. He could not provide any further information and did not even bother to haggle. But who was this relatively forgotten artist who created such a powerful image? I was intrigued. After successfully deciphering his name from the faint signature at the bottom right of the print, I decided to look in the net for further information. And this is what I found:
Albert Daenens was a Belgian artist, born in Brussels in 1883. He also died in Brussels, in Uccle in 1952. He was a graphic artist, a painter and a stage designer. Apart from his name being mentioned in the summer exhibition of the artistic circle Doe Stil Voort in Brussels in 1917 (2nd series) and some oral testimonies, we know nothing more about his paintings. Immediately after the first world war, he joined the modernist movement and became active in the circles instigated by the Bourgeois brothers who in 1922 published the journal “7 arts”. His woodcuts and linocuts of the period show a clear political and social commitment. He works on the covers of the anarchist magazine “Haro!” in which he is the editor in chief. Influenced by F. Masereel, he castigates the bourgeoisie, militarism and war. During the period 1920 – 1923 he experiments with abstract compositions in which he tries to picture his emotions and to discover new elegant rhythms. He then lives for a while in Holland and in the 30s, back in Belgium, he creates several stage settings especially for the Vlaams Volkstoneel. He illustrates numerous books, especially for Maurice Casteels and Willem Gijsels. In 1933, "The Great God Waste", a pamphlet on the excessiveness of industrialization by John Hodgson is published in England. It contains 9 woodcuts of Albert Daenens.
So here is man depicted as the most ferocious and terrible beast of them all… And here is a certain artist called Albert Daenens who deserves wider recognition.