The Belgian Blake: Alexander Adams visits two little-known artist-museums in Brussels, the Musées Wiertz and Meunier

The house-museums of two Belgian masters of the 19th Century shed light on artistic and social concerns of the era. As case studies they exemplify dominant thematic trends in both halves of that century – Romanticism in the first half and Realism in the second.

Antoine Wiertz (1806-1865) was born to an impoverished family in Dinant, Wallonia (later Belgium). After studying at Antwerp Art Academy, he won the (Belgian) Prix de Rome at a second try, in 1832.  His grand manner was Romantic and painterly, derived from Rubens. His subjects anticipate those of the Symbolists. Though Wiertz made his name with historical and religious compositions, the allegories and  (often gruesome) scenes of contemporary life are his most distinctive contributions