Thursday, June 10, 2010
Have now identified some possible apartments here in Brussels and will make a first visit Thursday – in a nice area. Had the idea today of revisiting the Musee des Beaux arts whose presentation of Belgian painters and sculptors so impressed me first more than 20 years ago. And this was no disappointment – although only one of the striking Constantin Meunier sculptures of coal miners and their grieving wives now on display (see above). I had forgotten just how powerful Belgian realistic painters of the late 19th century were - such as Charles Degroux and Eugene Laermans with their studies of poverty (Le banc des pauvres showing the haggard faces at the side of the church service) and the effect of alcohol , Braekeleer (with his interiors) and Leon Frederic (with his studies of various age groups). The museum library was groaning with books on Magritte, James Ensor and Felix Ropf – and also on Breughel and Bosch (one of whose massive triptychs was folded to draw the visitor in for closer study) but not a single book apparently on the realist painters. However I did find one of these large black and white catalogues of the entire museum stock of “modern” painting which gave me what I wanted – 700 pages each with about 10 small versions of the paintings - for 5 euros! I came out of the gallery to typical Brussels gloom and rain. The gallery has an excellent website where you can access most of the paintings. The pictures which now head up the last few blogs are taken from that website.
Before that I had encountered one of these amazing shops devoted to classical music –at least to the (German) Nexos brand which allowed me to get 2 free CDs for 1 bought at 7 euros. This encourages experimentation – and so I was very pleasantly surprised by such revelations as Alfred Hill’s String Quartets vol 1 (a New Zealander who lived from 1869 to 1960); Giovanni Platti’s 6 Flute Sonatas op 3 (1697-1763) and various French Flute composers (Donjon; Genin; Godrad; Gaubert; Gounod) of the late 19th century. The opportunity for such musical and cultural serendipity is perhaps the main criterion in the selection of the base I seek – and does strongly point to this area. I remember with fondness a similar shop in Sofia.