Art from ’14-’18 in the limelight

In 2016, another commemorative year for the centenary of the Great War, some of our ’14-’18 collection pieces are presented in various temporary exhibitions.

In 2016 it is indeed exactly one hundred years ago that the Belgian field army artistic section was created. Between 1916 and 1918 this section grouped twenty-six artists whose duty it was to illustrate the war. Their work was not merely used as documentary material, but also served Belgian propaganda. It indeed showed the part played in the conflict by the Belgian army and was supposed to incite countries all over the world to financially support Belgium. All fighting artists could however not benefit from this official title, but in spite of the horrible conditions at the front they nevertheless used their pencils and paint brushes to testify both about their lives and about history. The devastating war in that way engendered a large artistic activity.

In the framework of the exhibition series De ZIJkant van de oorlog cultural centre De Scharbiellie in De Panne (city in which the royal couple passed the war) shows Queen Elisabeth’s unconditional support to the arts (music, literature and graphic arts). Eugène Ysaye, Emile Verhaeren and Alfred Bastien are for instance discussed, alongside twelve works bought by the Queen during the war and donated to the Museum by King Leopold III in 1968.

Visitors’ centre Westfront Nieuwpoort reminds us of the great attraction the city held for fighting artists, and its temporary exhibition The Great War on Canvas offers a selection of works illustrating the destroyed city, the devastated landscape and the locks that made it possible to keep the flatlands inundated for four years. Nieuwpoort in that way recalls the fact that Alfred Bastien and some members of the artistic section had set up a studio in a ruined house, the legendary “painters’ basement”. Twenty-eight RMM works are exhibited, among which a large sketch Bastien made for his Yser Panorama.

Finally, on September 29 the Royal Museum for the Fine Arts of Belgium will inaugurate an exhibition called 14-18. Rupture or continuity? , about the impact of war on artistic production in Belgium between 1910 and 1925. Two members of the artistic section are represented through works the State acquired after the conflict.

Three exhibitions, three opportunities to approach the Great War in colour and through the spectre of emotions.  

More info :

De Panne:


Brussel RMFA: