Belgium Map

Belgium Map

LITERATURE

In the 20th century, Belgian talent made its presence known in the world of comic strips and detective novels. In Brussels, museums are dedicated to the history of car-tooning, where tribute is paid to the work of Georges Remi, better-known as Herge, creator of Tintin (127), and to Peyo, father of the Smurfs. The enigmatic Georges Simenon authored a 76-novel mystery series around the cunning Commissaire Maigret, another famous Belgian creation of the past century. Henri Michaux stretched the bounds by even Surrealist standards. His poetry explored the inner self and blurred the boundary between fantasy and reality.

MUSIC

Cesar Franck, the influential Romantic musician and organist, is Belgium’s best- known composer. His symphonies and sonatas combined technical expertise with emotional energy. Adolphe Sax, bom in Dinant (139), a musical instrument inven tor, introduced the saxophone to the world. Jacques Brel was the voice of the nation; his most famous ballad, Ne me quitte pas (1959), has been covered by Sting, among countless other musicians.

THE VISUAL ARTS

ARCHITECTURE. A native of Ghent, Victor Horta led Belgium’s Art Nouveau move ment around the turn of the century. His use of abstracted shapes and modem materials was widely influential among later architects. Horta’s works can be seen throughout Belgium and at the Musee Horta, in Brussels (128).

ON THE CANVAS. Despite representing a school of painting known as the Flemish Primitives, Jan van Eyck in fact transformed the future of painting, working with layers of oil paint to produce luminous depth and amazing detail. His most well-known painting is the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb (1432), the altarpiece of St. Bavo’s Cathedral in Ghent (136). Pieter Bruegel the Elder shifted artistic focus from the sacred to the secular, choosing to depict com monplace scenes over grand themes. Peter Paul Rubens was Antwerp’s most famous artistic son; his paintings are distinctive for their religious symbolism, reflecting the turbulent climate of the Counter-Reformation, and for their fluid incorporation of the Italian Renaissance style. Ruben’s assistant, Anthony van Dyck, was also a prominent member of the Flemish school of painting. Van Dyck’s elegant portraits of the aristocracy gained him widespread renown and influenced portraiture style across the continent. In the 20th century, the leader of the Surrealists was Rene Magritte, who attempted to bring new and unusual meaning to ordinary household objects such as pipes, apples, instruments, chairs, and his most famous icon, the bowler-hatted man.

FACTS AND FIGURES

Official Name: Kingdom of Belgium. Capital: Brussels.

Major Cities: Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi. Population: 10,300,000.

Land Area: 32,547 sq. km.

Time Zone: GMT +1.

Language: Flemish, French, German. Religions: Roman Catholic (75%).

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