Sunday, April 27, 2008

Albert Daenens: An anarchist artist of the 20s

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.

6 comments:

  1. This artist was a close and personal friend of my family in Brussels. He often joined in the idealest group of their time after the WW1. He truely does need to be mentioned more! He was the avant-garde artiste and contributor to Haro, a belgian avant-gardiste magazine

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  2. Thank you for your comment Sasha. I fully agree that Albert Daenens was an exceptional artist and there is not enough out there in the internet about his life and work. His political ideas and uncompromising stance in life and art might be the reason. It's about time that this artist got the recognition he deserves.

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  3. I am looking to sell a set of these prints...any ssgestions where? They are wonderful...they should be made more public. Iconic.

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  4. I also have a set to sell, in California. anicoleteague@yahoo.com

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  5. A Belgian art critic, Roger Avermaete, mentions Albert Daenens in a book titled "La Gravure sur Bois Moderne de l'Occident" (1928). He notes that Daenens makes linocuts, is a contributor to the periodicals "Haro!" and "Le Combat," and finds it a miracle that these works of Daenens maintain a woodcut quality, even though they are executed quickly and are intended for an ephemeral purpose.

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  6. Thank you Andreas for your interesting comment!

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