Offered publicly for the first time, Rare-Era.com is honored to be entrusted to sell a group of paintings, drawings and books from the estate of artist Georges Brasseur (1880 – 1950, Belgium). This collection is offered at our ‘Moved by March’ Spring Celebration Auction and these works document a poignant but rarely illustrated period in the artist’s life. These items date from his time living in Belgium; later he divided his time between Colombia (where many of his works are held) returning only sporadically to Belgium.
Brasseur is known for his powerful realist paintings but he was also a prolific designer and a crafts-person who is credited with noble actions during WWI. Primarily self-taught, he was one of many brothers and sisters, and worked support his family, the result that he could not attend school faithfully.
However, he was motivated to learn his craft and when possible, took evening courses in painting and decorating at the Saint Luc School in Brussels, simultaneously working at a decorator’s workshop designing interior items and stained glass ornaments for churches.
Brasseur was one of a gifted few who had the ability to design and decorate a house, palace or church from paintings to furnishings; he was equally at home depicting young society girls dancing as he was designing stained glass windows for pious cathedrals.
While his formal training was sporadic, selections from his sketchbook show that he practiced his craft by making copies of paintings by artists like Angelicus Josef Maria Beckert (1889 – 1962) whose work is illustrated next to Brasseur’s copies.
In 1905 he left the decorating workshop to work independently and enjoyed patronage from the Duke of Arenberg who had an imposing palace to decorate. The Duke commissioned Brasseur to paint and design decorative items including tapestries and a series of historic battle scenes in the main hall of the palace. This is Brasseur’s depiction of Arenberg Palace’s Marble Gallery.
He continued taking independent commissions until the beginning of WWI. In 1916, Brasseur was 36, he was a successful artist living in Belgium and was arrested by the Germans under suspicion of espionage and spying for the Belgian resistance. He was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labor.
Brasseur convinced his prison guards to provide him with paints and he depicted two precise views of the prison cell he was expected to occupy until he was 51 years old. The most poignant pieces of this estate collection are a pair of excellent views of his cell, illustrating in precise detail his few personal belongings. In one view his linens and bed roll are seen under a small, arched window. In another, his palette can be seen resting on a simple, wood chair.
Brasseur expected to live in this cramped room until he was 51, however the end of the war, in 1918, he was released. In 1919 he was honored by King Albert and then took time to enjoy his success, and traveling throughout Brussels. He was known for painting landscapes and society portraits. This pair of marriage portrait miniatures may depict respectable members of his own family; these have descended with the collection and are painted on ivory and housed in matching tortoise shell frames (these are offered with an additional portrait drawing).
In 1926, Brasseur had the opportunity to leave Europe for South America and become the Director of the School of Painting and Sculpture at the Institute of Fine Arts of Medellín, Colombia (also the birthplace of Fernando Botero). This became the first of many long sojourns in South America where he taught and exhibited in various colleges in Colombia.
Many of the artist’s public works are in Bogota and Medellin, Colombia, this collection is a rare glimpse into the artist’s European life and incarceration for his involvement in the resistance of the German invasion of WWI.