Wagemaekers, Victor (1876-1953)

Wagemaekers, Victor (1876-1953)

Brightly lit scenes of the Belgian countryside and gloriously rich still life paintings fill the oeuvre of Belgian artist Victor Wagemaekers. Living and working all his life in and around the Brussels area, Wagemaekers became involved with some of the most influential art groups and artists of the time.

Brussels was one of the art centres of Europe at this time. The art world had been going through monumental changes throughout the 19th century, and at the turn of the 20th century, all myriad of art groups with new approaches to their craft were beginning to take root in Brussels and other art centres.

Historical records first make note of Wagemaekers when he exhibited with the art group ‘Le Sillon’ in 1899. Founded by Gustave-Max Stevens (1871-1946), ‘Le Sillon’ was established to formulate a different approach from the increasingly expressionist post-impressionists. They favoured naturalism and realism with luminous colours. The Flemish masters and the glorious drama of the baroque were strong influences, as were the vivacious Pre-Raphaelites. Stevens was a great admirer of Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898), who was a supporter and honorary member of ‘Le Sillon.’

Gradually, ‘Le Sillon’ began to favour lighter colours, which combined with their direct naturalism, made them an appealing society for the Brabant fauvism group, who held similar ideals. As such, they were at the heart of modern developments in art in Belgium.

Wagemaekers’ work resonates with their strong use of colour. Scenes of fields stretch fervently with an appealing verdancy. The strong bows of brown-barked trees are mirrored with an uncanny realism upon the surface of glassy water. Terracotta-tiled houses lining the banks of a river stand surely, white-washed walls stark in the sunlight. In his still life images, the realism resonates through the delicate attention paid to petals and stems. They bloom in technicolour swathes. Wagemaekers certainly uses the same naturalism lauded by ‘Le Sillon.’

Wagemaekers’ work was also heavily influenced by his tutor and esteemed painter Franz Courtens (1854-1943). Wagemaekers began receiving instruction from Courtens in 1900. Similarly to the painters of ‘Le Sillon,’ Courtens infused his landscapes with a brightly-lit realism. His quick brushstrokes are evocative of the impressionists, adding a sense of motion and liveliness to his works.

This influence seems evident in some of Wagemaekers’ work. The brushwork is looser, the expression of the scenes before him, in and around Brussels, freer. Bright sunlight is cast on the ground through flicks of ochre. Umber imitates shadow and shade.

There is, unfortunately, very little else known about Wagemaekers. He is documented as being the treasurer of the National Society of Watercolourists and Pastellists, working as he did so often in watercolour. This suggests that Wagemaekers was an indispensable figure in art circles within Belgium.

Whatever the case, his work remains as a compelling legacy for a painter working in the heart of one of Europe’s most productive art scenes.


Born in Gannshoren, Belgium.


Exhibited for the first time, with ‘Le Sillon.’


Died in Sint-Jans-Molenbeek, Belgium.


Posthumous retrospective exhibition of work held at Center of Art, Koekelberg, Belgium.

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