Orla Barry, Judith, 1994, Photographie montée sur aluminium, Dimensions variables.

The Artists, Past and Present, of an Occulted Land, Wallonia

Juan Paparella, no title.

Aquamanile représentant Aristote et Phyllis, Laiton coulé, ciselé et gravé, XVe siècle, 25,5 x 32 cm, Musées royaux d'Art et d'Histoire, Bruxelles, ©Musées royaux d'Art et d'Histoire, Bruxelles, Inv. 3145.

Henri Blès & Lambert van Noort, Saint-Jerôme dans un paysage, Musée des Arts anciens de Namur, Communauté française de Belgique.


Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels
Rue Ravensteinstraat 23
02 507 82 00
A Curious Land. Wallonia, From
Joachim Patenier to Michel François

February 14-May 18, 2008

Between the 12th and the 16th centuries, illuminators, painters, sculptors, goldsmiths, and musicians, all from a region yet to be known as Wallonia, moulded a culture that influenced all Europe.

Masterpieces by Joachim Patenier, Henri Blès, Robert Campin, Jacques Du Broeucq, and Hugo d'Oignies, from noted museums and obscure collections, present a freely drawn portrait of a region whose popular beliefs and stories combine to evoke a distinctive view of seeing life. Through more than 140 outstanding works.

Laurent Busine, the exhibition's curator, presents a highly individual, personal vision of Wallonia, a vivid image of which emerges equally from the works of the past and from contemporary contributions (by Orla Barry, Michel François, Jean-Pol Godart, Juan Paparella, Beat Streuli, and Angel Vergara).

The Walloon Region, commonly called Wallonia, is one of the three Regions of Belgium.

The region has a third of the population and 55 percent of the territory of Belgium. It is predominantly French speaking but there are also German-speaking communes in the east. As the other regions, the Walloon Region has its own parliament and government and exercises its functions by the limits defined by the Belgian constitution. Its capital is Namur. Its official languages are French and German.

The Walloon region is made up of: the Walloon Brabant, Hainaut, Liège, Luxemburg and Namur regions, as set forth in the Belgian constitution.

This territory of 16,844 square kilometers occupys the southern part of Belgium and is divided into 20 administrative states and 262 towns.

Since July 15, 1998, the Walloon Region has had its own flag, anthem, "national" day, though the Walloon Region is not a nation.

The flag is a coq hardi de gueule sur fond d'or, "a bold red rooster on gold", designed by Pierre Paulus in 1913, and adopted in July 1998. It is also the flag of the French Community of Belgium and they share the same national day, September 27. The anthem is Le Chant des Wallons (the Walloons' song), written by Theophile Bovy in 1900 and composed by Louis Hillier in 1901.

Since April 23, 1993, Belgium has been a federal state, geographically split into three regions and linguistically split into three communities. The Walloon Region is one of the three (southern region, mainly French-speaking, with a population of 3,360,000), the two others being the Flemish Region (northern region, Dutch-speaking, with a population of 5,900,000) and the Brussels-Capital Region (bilingual French/Dutch with French majority, with a population of 980,000).

Wallonia has a parliament (one chamber with 75 members elected for five years by direct universal suffrage) and a government responsible in front of the parliament. The Walloon region's parliament exercises two functions: 1) discuss and pass decrees, and take initiative to draw up decrees. After this, decrees are sanctioned and promulgated by the Walloon government. 2) controls the Walloon government. Control is exercised via the vote.

The Walloon economy experienced a strong development in the 19th century, especially in the regions of Liège and Charleroi. Belgium was then the first country in continental Europe to undergo an industrial revolution in the early 1800s, mainly based on the iron and coal industries, which were both abundant in Wallonia. In 1842 John Cockerill (1790-1840), a British entrepreneur, founded the company Cockerill-Sambre, which would become one of the major producers of steel in Europe. Raoul Warocqué (1870-1917), who made the coal mines of Mariemont a success, was the wealthiest person in Belgium.

The profitability of these types of heavy industries started declining in the first half of the 20th century, which saw the center of industrial activity shift to the northern part of Belgium. Wallonia would be surpassed in economic development by Flanders only in the 1960s, when industrial production in the northern part of Belgium would catch up with Wallonia. The crisis in the steel industry led to a painful economic restructuring in Wallonia.

The current Walloon economy is relatively diversified, although certain areas — especially around Charleroi and Liège — are still suffering from the steel industry crisis, with a high unemployment rate of up to 30 percent in some regions, while the south of the region, bordering Luxembourg benefits from its neighbor’s economic prosperity, with a lot of Belgians (called frontaliers) working on the other side of the border. The restoration of economic development is high on the political agenda.

Anonyme, Chevalier sans tête, 1562, Calcaire, 69 x 44,5 x 39 cm, Musée provincial des Arts anciens du Namurois, Namur, © Luc Schrobiltgen, Bruxelles.

Anonyme, Repos de Jésus, provenant de l'abbaye de Marche-les-Dames, XVe siècle Argent repoussé, ciselé et en partie doré, 12,5 x 11,5 x 8 cm, Musée provincial des Arts anciens du Namurois, Namur, Coll. Société archéologique de Namur, © Luc Schrobiltgen, Bruxelles.