The movement which undoubtedly best represents Belgian art internationally is surrealism. The characteristics of this wave of artists, who at the beginning of the 20th century created an impertinent and innovative climate, and who are now famous far beyond our borders, are to be found in various fields.
In the field of painting, the precursors of this movement were indisputably artists like Félicien Rops and his symbolist works or James Ensor, who excelled in caricaturing bourgeois society. But the master of Belgian surrealism is still René Magritte and his daring juxtapositions, Paul Delvaux being considered more unclassifiable, while the moulds of Marcel Broodthaers are without doubt better known abroad than in his home country. As for Panamarenko, his monumental works are on the scale of metropolitan Antwerp.
In literature, Belgium can boast of writers who were also inspired by surrealism, such as Scutenaire, Henry Michaux, or by fantasy, like Jean Ray, but also, in the north of the country of Johan Daisne or Hugo Claus, who was co-founder of the Cobra movement (Copenhagen, Brussels, Amsterdam). More classical, in a genre which is sometimes scorned but in which he excelled, the crime novel, Georges Simenon was born in Liège, even if he abandoned his Belgian nationality in the course of his brilliant career. And the succession is assured, with Amélie Nothomb, Didier Van Cauwelaert or Henry Bauchau.
Impossible not to mention the cartoon strip, which Hergé among many others has without contest raised to the level of art. The clear line made his reputation, and that of Belgium. It may be less well-known that the Smurfs were invented by Pierre Culliford, a native of Brussels and that Willy Vandersteen created the famous Lambique.
In architecture, the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century saw an abundance of creativity, with Victor Horta the uncontested authority of Art Nouveau, certain of whose works have happily been preserved, specifically in Brussels. The same movement can be found in furniture, with Henry Van de Velde.
Belgians have also shone in music, as inventors, with Adolphe Sax (whom Dinant celebrates for his saxophone), and, in classical music, with a highly renowned competition such as the Queen Elisabeth Competition, and also with composers such as César Franck or Edgard Poot, or as interpreters with the famous baritone José Van Dam and, in chanson, Jacques Brel, Adamo, Arno, Johan Verminnen, Pierre Rapsat, Maurane or Axelle Red. Jazz is virtually a Belgian speciality, if we believe the success of Toots Thielemans.
Belgian cinema has just lost a great figure in the person of André Delvaux, but we still have Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne and their trademark actor Olivier Gourmet or the young Natacha Régnier, but also Stijn Coninx, Jaco Van Dormael or Gérard Corbiau.
In the performing arts, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker or Frédéric Flamand are no longer bound by frontiers. They combine dance with other art forms, for the greater prestige of their country of origin.
As for fashion, it is no longer confined to Paris or Rome, since Antwerp and Brussels have their own stars. And why not raise your hat to Elvis Pompilio?
How could I have forgotten about Tintin and the Smurfs?
Everything you do continues long after you've gone