Gustaaf De Bruyne (BE)

°1914 — †1981

Gustaaf De Bruyne produced paintings, drawings, etchings and engravings. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Mechelen, where he was born, before moving on to the Nationaal Hoger Instituut in Antwerp where his teachers included Gustave Van de Woestijne. In 1946 he became a teacher at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. At the end of his life he went blind.

Melancholia (1949) and Nieuwjaarswensen (1954-1977)

oil on canvas & burin engraving

Mechelen artist Gustaaf De Bruyne produced paintings, drawings, etchings and engravings. He was particularly keen on symbolic scenes, landscapes, nudes and portraits. His work spanned a number of different styles, evolving from realism and expressionism to surrealism. It often features poetic reflections on life and death. Man, blind to his own self-destruction, is another recurrent theme. Contour presents his painting Melancholia and 24 Nieuwjaarswensen (New Year Wishes), a series of burin engravings which De Bruyne made for each new year.    

The curator’s selection of postcards and photographs 

Jacob Fabricius explains his selection: ‘In an antique shop in Mechelen, I found old postcards of the Mechelen prison. I also became acquainted with Gustaaf De Bruyne’s work there. When I first found his print Wat Nu?.... 1975, I was thrilled by the many human expressions – from anger to slyness, joy and piousness – it shows. All of the faces capture feelings that can be connected to the theme Leisure, Discipline and Punishment. The idea of the theatre of life and masquerade in the print seems as present as in James Ensor's work Christ's Entry Into Brussels (1889). This, in turn, is connected to another find in the same antique shop: an archive of photographs and letters from the old municipal puppet theatre. These puppets also have simplified, staged – almost primitive – faces and expressions, which are key elements in theatre, films and moving images, from Charlie Chaplin to Lars von Trier.’