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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Ferdinand Willaert

Fruit Seller, Ghent, Ferdinand Willaert
One of the best ways for young artists to make a name for themselves during the early years of their careers is to paint local color. If that's a strange term, it simply means painting local scenes accentuating the colorful people, places, and things the artist knows best. Although I wasn't consciously doing so during my own early years, I did, in fact, paint several local landmarks in and around Morgan and Washington Counties in southeastern Ohio. With few exceptions (mostly the result of their being overpriced), they all sold to local people who would not have otherwise bought an original canvas painting. I've long said that the majority of art sales occur when the buyer makes an emotional bond to the work. If there is already an emotional tie to the subject matter (as in local churches, bridges, schools, public buildings, etc.) then the extension of that to a painting of that subject is all the more likely. Thus the sale ensues (provided the work does not seem overpriced to the buyer).
Ghent Canal, Ferdinand Willaert
Ferdinand Willaert by
Valentine Willaert-Fontan
(his second wife).
The Belgian painter, Ferdinand Willaert, painted local color (top). Born in 1861, the painter spent virtually all his life in Ghent, about 30 miles (50km) southwest of Antwerp, Belgium. And virtually all his art featured the local color of Ghent and areas nearby. As a result, he seldom had trouble selling his work. Ferdinand came from a whole family of Willaert artists (he was the oldest of thirteen children). His father was a painter of portraits and religious subjects. Two of his brothers, Arthur, and Raphael Robert were also taught to paint by their father. Arthur painted mostly beach scenes while his brother, Robert specialized in dogs. Apparently the art community in Ghent was fairly tight-knit in that Ferdinand Willaert's second wife, Valentine Fontan (a painter of still-lifes, flowers, interiors, por-traits, and scenes with figures) and her father, Joseph-Auguste Fontan, were also painters.
The Camel Market, Ferdinand Willaert.
Portrait of a Moroccan,
1890, Ferdinand Willaert
After his secondary schooling, Ferdinand began training as a painter-decorator, taking classes at the Ghent Academy for three years. His mentor and teacher was Theo-door Canneel. In 1884 Willaert became a teacher himself at the Ghent academy. Then In 1890, he traveled to Morocco with two painting friends from France and Spain. They remained in Tangier painting local color there until about 1892. Upon his return to his hometown, Willaert presented his Moroccan paintings in the "Cercle Artistique" in Ghent. The exhibition was highly praised and marked the beginning of a successful artistic breakthrough. In fact, the interest was overwhelming as critics wrote full of praise while nearly all works were sold. Fans admired his personal vision, the rich-ness of his colors, and the honest repre-sentation of his themes. Soon after, Willaert was invited to exhibit in Paris. From then on his work could be found regularly in the Paris Salon as Belgian and French museums began purchasing his works.

The Arches Around the Place de la Bastide d'Armagnac, France, Ferdinand Willaert
1893 was a special year for Willaert, the year he passed an art exam and became director of the academy in Dendermonde, about ten miles (25km) northwest of Brussels. He held this position well into old age. In 1899, Ferdinand Willaert became a member of the jury of the Belgian Salons. In this capacity he organized various Salons in Ghent, Antwerp, and Brus-sels. Only then did he himself regularly take part in foreign exhibitions in Turkey, France, the Netherlands, Germany, England, Italy, Spain, Russia, Egypt, and the United States. In each country his work was highly regarded.
The Leie in Gent,
Ferdinand Willaert

The Garden of the Convent, Ferdinand Willaert
Although Ferdinand Willaert enjoyed a respectable career in art, he did not garner any great wealth. Prosperity did not come until near the end of his life when his works were gradually recognized by the Belgian art market. He resided at the Ghent Drabstraat (an apartment complex) until his death in 1938. As director of the Ghent Academy, Willaert was allowed an apartment in Dendermonde, where he lived and worked most of the week. After the death of his first wife in 1904, Willaert married a fellow artist met in Paris (Valentine Fontan). Thus, Ferdinand, Valentine, and her father, could often be seen working together in the studio of her parents' home at Magnan. Valentine Willaert gave birth to a daughter in 1918. Willaert retired in 1936 and following his death in 1938 was buried in the family tomb at Campo Santo in Sint-Amandsberg (Ghent).
The bagpipe player is Willaert's younger brother, Arthur.
A Town View under Snow,
1898, Ferdinand Willaert

The Grape Thief, Ferdinand Willaert


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