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 Florent Willems  (1823 - 1905)

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Lived/Active: Belgium      Known for: portrait and genre painter

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Florent Willems, considered a portrait and genre painter, was born in Liege, Belgium on January 8, 1823. As a young man he received his first instruction in painting while attending lectures at the Malines Academy. At seventeen Willems had his first successful exhibition. He worked as a restorer in a gallery in Brussels to raise the necessary funds to further his training.

Willems was a student at the Academy of Mechlen, in central Belgium. In 1844, he went to Paris to advance his career and establish himself as a painter. Just prior to his move he became very interested in Dutch 17th Century Masters, studying the academic techniques of Terburg, Metsu, and Mines and especially his friend and fellow artist Alfred Stevens. Together they uncovered and shared the secrets discovered while studying the techniques of the masters. Willems emulated their meticulous technique and used it to paint genre scenes set in the 16th and 17th Centuries.

Willems was befriended by the late King of Belgium after he purchased one of his works and continued to receive commissions from the court to produce costume paintings. Numerous awards and medals were bestowed on the artist after winning French acclaim, as a result of the Paris Exhibition of 1855. Willems was also recognized in his own country and elected into the Order of Leopold as a Chevelier (Knight) in 1853, as an officer in 1864, and as a commander in 1878. The artist was so highly respected for his academic skills that the Louvre asked him to join their restoration laboratory.

The Belgium and French people love Florent Willems and the artistic legacy he left behind. A portrait of him done by French artist Francois Flameng now hangs in the Liege Museum.

Submitted by Thomas Nygard Gallery, Boseman, MT, December 2003


Biography from Anderson Galleries, Inc.:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

After studying at the Academy of Malines, Willems exhibited for the first time in 1840. He settled in Paris where he established a studio and began to paint historical pictures with an emphasis on seventeenth and eighteenth century themes. He would often execute works inspired by the author Alexander Dumas. He enjoyed a very successful career as an artist and was awarded many honors including: The Legion of Honor in 1853, then Officer in 1855 and Knight of the Order of Leopold in 1860. The notable painter Alfred Stevens was a student and close friend. Because of his great technical skill, Willems also did occasional work as a restorer; Raphael's Saint Jean in the Louvre was a project that took him two years to complete.

With La Jeune Artiste, Willems quotes from older Dutch genre scenes while maintaining his signature precise brushwork and exquisite handling of details. In this delicately executed work, he composes a charming portrait of a lady at an easel. Her luminous appearance, offset by the rich wood interior, emanates from the center of the composition. Willems' technical skill is readily apparent in the precise rendering of the composition; exquisite details such as the lady's shimmering gown, the heavy velvet curtain, and carefully crafted still-life showcase Willems' talent for creating a dynamic interior scene.

Museum Collections: Amsterdam, Belgium, Dublin, Anvers and Vienna.


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