Böhm, Auguste (1819-1891)

Böhm, Auguste (1819-1891)

Belgian artist Auguste Böhm created landscapes of romantic reverie and naturalistic zest. Depicting the glories of the Belgian countryside, Böhm established for himself a respected reputation in both France and his homeland, contributing heavily to the art scene in his birth town of Ypres.

Artistic aptitude ran in Böhm’s blood. His father, François Jean Emmanuel Böhm (1801-1863), was also a keen landscape painter. He would become Böhm’s first tutor, taking his son with him to Paris whilst he made strides exhibiting at the prestigious Paris Salon.

Böhm would also receive instruction from various other artists during his Paris education. He worked with landscape painter Charles Claude Delaye (1793-?), as well as receiving instruction in the studio of renowned landscapist Jules Coignet (1798-1860).

Böhm was feeding his natural talent with influential ideas and approaches, all of which would culminate when he first began exhibiting in the 1840s as a young man. From his very first showings, Böhm’s talent was recognised both in the Salons and exhibition spaces of Paris and in his native Belgium. ‘Mr Böhm has made immense progress in a short time,’ the Belgian press would praise. His was ‘the work of a painter which awaits a brilliant future.’

Böhm began to split his time between Paris and his birth town of Ypres, producing landscapes depicting the natural beauty of the French and Belgian countryside. Split, too, were his influences, fuelled by his education under numerous artists.

There is both a glorious naturalism and an enticing romanticism running through Böhm’s works.

His naturalism seems redolent of the 17th-century Dutch masters, an inspiration which possibly came from his father. His upright, carefully rendered trees are reminiscent of their rich, realistic style. So, too, are his fascinating experimentations with light. The sun bleaches the clouds a wan white and infuses the sky with a fearsome vibrancy. His works possessed a ‘startling truth’ much admired by his critics.

Yet there is a romantic edge seemingly inspired by his teacher, Jules Coignet. Coignet was blending the poetic with the natural, presenting images which looked for their truth in nature, and yet dug deeper to bring out nature’s spirit. Böhm was also incredibly successful in evoking this intention in his art. His glorious use of colour lends a personality to his pieces. Nature does not appear dormant. It is wonderfully represented in heart and soul.

Critics were quick to praise: ‘when nature is thus seized in the act and rendered with this astonishing fidelity, it is almost as pleasing to behold in these human works as in the great work of God.’

As well as his landscape paintings, Böhm was greatly celebrated in his birthplace of Ypres for the sketches he made of the traditional houses lining its streets. Much admired for their old-world look and much appreciated for their historical significance, these houses were depicted by Böhm with much realism and delicate detail. The town has remained grateful for his efforts ever since. His works now reside in the Ypres city museum. They have also become important historical documents, depicting Ypres before the devastation that would be wrought upon it by the First World War.

Indeed, Böhm’s loyalty to Ypres extended further. In the 1860s, he returned to live permanently in the town and took up a position as director of the Drawing Academy of Ypres. This move and Böhm’s new teaching position necessitated that he exhibit less and his output after this time dwindled.

However, just as important was his work to improve arts education within Ypres and encourage artistic endeavour in its citizens. As well as his work at the Academy, Böhm also oversaw drawing courses in the town. He was also a keen participant in town matters, as his father had been before him, looking after the collection of treasures at the Ypres Museum, as well as attending to administrative work in the library. Böhm’s passion for his hometown extended from his glorious landscape paintings to his actions as a concerned citizen.

Auguste Böhm was a man of passion and dedication in both his art and his actions. His romantically infused, naturalistic works were celebrated both in his homeland and the competitive landscape of the Paris art scene. His contributions towards Ypres oversaw its everyday running and preserved the town’s history.

Auguste Böhm was himself a force of nature.


Born in Ypres, Belgium.


Exhibited at the Exposition Universelle, Paris, France.


Became a member of the Society for the Encouragement of Fine Arts, Antwerp, Belgium.


Father François Jean Emmanuel Böhm died.


Moved to Ypres, Belgium.


Appointed director of the Drawing Academy of Ypres.


Died in Ypres, Belgium.

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