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Piet Bekaert: His Life, Work and Quite Remarkable Legacy.

Updated on December 30, 2010

Piet Bekaert, Belgian Artist

Welcome to the world of Piet Bekaert!

A much loved Belgian artist, Piet (pronounced Peet) Bekaert has become known to many through his posters. His paintings are so multi-layered and luscious that they photograph beautifully and become beguiling posters. To see his work in person is electrifying!

I discovered him walking home one evening from a job on Wall Street. I was in my early 20's. The show would have been sometime between 1982 and 1984. The Vorpal Gallery was on my way. As I strode past the window I gazed in wonder. Stopped. Went back and gazed some more.

Over the next months, my fiancé and I would stop by often and just drown in the beautiful images. We couldn't afford them. They cost $2,500 each, mostly.

We even got invited to a show there at Vorpal...

Years later, when I had some money by me - and now it's 1999 - the paintings had become $30 - 60,000! Some even at $75,000. Oh, if only!

Nonetheless, by introducing his work to a few friends, I was able to cobble the commission together to afford not 1 but TWO extraordinary, lower priced pieces!!

The pride and delight... you have no idea!!

Piet Bekaert - today's finest contemporary impressionist!

Piet Bekaert - today's finest contemporary impressionist!
Piet Bekaert - today's finest contemporary impressionist!

Muldoon Elder is a poet, painter, filmmaker,art dealer and writer who lives in San Francisco.

His first museum purchase award was from the Long Beach Museum of Art in 1957. Since that time his paintings and drawings have been exhibited in numerous museums and galleries throughout the United States. He founded the Vorpal Gallery in 1962 and was primarily responsible for exposing to high acclaim many little-known artists including the Japanese mezzotint master, Yozo Hamaguchi and the Dutch graphic master, M.C.Escher.

His documentary films have garnered thirteen international movie awards including an Academy Award in 1969 for "Best Live-action Short" and First Place at The Cannes Film Festival in 1970 [The Magic Machines].

His Welsh-Irish heritage is to blame for his colorful use of words.

Piet Bekaert - about his paintings

"capricious bits of light"

Muldoon's quote of Bekaert on his interest when painting

It is through his unique treatment of light that artist Piet Bekaert achieves his most remarkable images. His magnificent use of light produces paintings which are pristine, lush and mysterious. "Each object in the universe 'takes the light' in its own unique way. And it is that way in which each thing reflects light that transforms object into subject," asserts Bekaert.

Always fascinated with the "peculiar light of the veiled sun" of his native Belgium, Bekaert captures it in his paintings, transforming his subjects, investing them with significance far beyond their simplicity. Similarly, he uses the subdued mist to create enchanting paintings which are classically graceful and suffused with mystique, as well as a tough, artistic integrity. Bekaert is the recipient of the 1976 West Flanders Painting Award, as well as the 1967 Knokke Award.

Silent Conversation -- the one I own - -

Silent Conversation -- the one I own - -
Silent Conversation -- the one I own - -

Piet Bekaert - about himself

Born 1939, Vichte, Belgium.

He himself was a splendidly independent fellow! He had no interest in the family business - Belgian lace - though this background may well explain how it is that his paintings feature the most luminous table cloths and curtains of all time! Nor did he really want to be a painter. His dream? He wanted to direct! Doesn't everyone?

Born in Vichite, Belgium in 1939, Bekaert was taught classical technique at the Royal Academy in Ghent. He later studied in Paris, at the Acadamie Julien. Building on this solid foundation in the tradition of his Flemish ancestors, he then broadened his formal scope at the Pratt Institute in New York City. A trip to the Far East further rounded Bekaert's world view before he returned to his native Belgium to begin the career for which his education had prepared him.

Until his death, Bekaert was represented exclusively by the Vorpal Galleries in New York and San Francisco. The owner of Vorpal is the irrepressible Muldoon Elder, about whom you'll discover more later down the page. Whether Mulddon still owns the inventory or has had to sell it is unclear to me. However, I will be interviewing him shortly and look forward to finding out more then.

Bekaert enjoyed about 15 exhibitions at Vorpal, in both New York City and San Franscisco, as well as many others in Germany, Belgium Holland and Paris. His preponderant commercial market is in the US.

He died on July 7 2000, Sint Maarten Latem. Apparently. My appraiser has him dying in 2001.

Piet Bekaert: 'Dining Table in Early Summer Light'

I've seen this one in the flesh - it's breathtaking!!

I took a guy I was dating once to see the paintings at Vorpal's storage room, before it was disbanded forever... as result of Muldoon's divorce, if I understand correctly. He bought 3 paintings -- this being the one I wanted in the worst way.

I had had a framed poster of it, and given it to Mark Jacoby's wife for her voice studio. I never imagined I would see it live.

That's how Bekaert's paintings are - live. Alive. Quite extraordinary! The layers, the way the light changes them...you have to see one, if you can.

What is Impressionism -- when it comes to art ---

It's supposed to represent a "fleeting glance" as if you'd just glimpsed the vista on your way to somewhere else. I think it came about before photography had arrived, or maybe it was all coming together at the same time.

It's interesting how often that happens - there's a global consciousness and then suddenly we have photography capturing a moment in time, and impressionism giving you the artist's method of recording a glimpse or a glance.

Hang a 'Piet Bekaert' in your own home!

Dining Table in Early Summer Light - Piet Bekaert FRAMED Art Print - Poster
Dining Table in Early Summer Light - Piet Bekaert FRAMED Art Print - Poster

This particularly romantic notion of breakfast on the edge of the ocean is luscious in print and in real life. The original hangs in Summit, NJ...and at least one copy in Maplewood. Why not add your own?

 

What's Your View?

How does art get valued?

Do you have to have heard of the artist to make the painting valuable?

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Piet Bekaert is a Famous Belgian - see others!

Belgium has produced many famous figures in the arts. In the 15th century, one of the great periods of European painting culminated in the work of Jan van Eyck (1390?-1441) and Hans Memling (1430?-94). They were followed by Hugo van der Goes (1440?-82), and Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1525?-69), the ancestor of a long line of painters. Generally considered the greatest of Flemish painters are Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640) and Anthony Van Dyck (1599-1641). In the 19th century, Henri Evenepoel (1872-99) continued this tradition. The 20th century boasts such names as James Ensor (1860-1949), Paul Delvaux (1897-1994), and René Magritte (1898-1967). Modern Belgian architecture was represented by Victor Horta (1861-1947) and Henry van de Velde (1863-1957).

Belgium made substantial contributions to the development of music through the works of such outstanding 15th- and 16th-century composers as Johannes Ockeghem (1430?-95), Josquin des Prés (1450?-1521), Heinrich Isaac (1450?-1517), Adrian Willaert (1480?-1562), Nicolas Gombert (1490?-1556), Cipriano de Rore (1516-65), Philippe de Monte (1521-1603), and Roland de Lassus (known originally as Roland de Latre and later called Orlando di Lasso, 1532-94), the "Prince of Music." Later Belgian composers of renown include François-Joseph Gossec (1734-1829), Peter Van Maldere (1729-68), André Ernest Modeste Grétry (1741-1813), César Franck (1822-90), and Joseph Jongen (1873-1953). Among famous interpreters are the violinists Eugène Ysaye (1858-1931) and Arthur Grumiaux (1921-86). André Cluytens (1905-67) was the conductor of the National Orchestra of Belgium. Maurice Béjart (Maurice Berger, b.1927), an internationally famous choreographer, was the director of the Ballet of the 20th Century from 1959 until 1999.

Outstanding Belgian names in French historical literature are Jean Froissart (1333?-1405?) and Philippe de Commynes (1447?-1511?), whereas early Dutch literature boasts the mystical writing of Jan van Ruysbroeck (1293-1381). The 19th century was marked by such important writers as Charles de Coster (1827-79), Camille Lemonnier (1844-1913), Georges Eeckhoud (1854-1927), and Emile Verhaeren (1855-1916) in French; and by Hendrik Conscience (1812-83) and Guido Gezelle (1830-99) in Flemish. Among contemporary authors writing in French, Michel de Ghelderode (1898-1962), Suzanne Lilar (1901-1992), Georges Simenon (1903-1989), and Françoise Mallet-Joris (b.1930) have been translated into English. Translations of Belgian authors writing in Dutch include works by Johan Daisne (1912-78) and Hugo Claus (b.1929).

Eight Belgians have won the Nobel Prize in various fields. The poet and playwright Maurice Maeterlinck (1862-1949), whose symbolist dramas have been performed in many countries, received the prize for literature in 1911. Jules Bordet (1870-1961) received the physiology or medicine award in 1919 for his contributions to immunology. The same award went to Corneille J. F. Heymans (1892-1968) in 1938 and was shared by Albert Claude (1898-1983) and Christian de Duve (b.1917) in 1974. Russian-born Ilya Prigogine (b.1917) won the chemistry prize in 1977. Three Belgians have won the Nobel Peace Prize: Auguste Beernaert (1829-1912) in 1909, Henri Lafontaine (1854-1943) in 1913, and Father Dominique Pire (1910-69) in 1958.

Belgium's chief of state since 1951 had been King Baudouin I (1930-93), the son of Leopold III (1901-83), who reigned from 1934 until his abdication in 1951.

Another Piet Bekaert lustrous print you can own!

Luncheon with the Princess of Spring - Piet Bekaert Art Print - Poster
Luncheon with the Princess of Spring - Piet Bekaert Art Print - Poster

'Luncheon with the Princess of Spring'

Is there a more majestic description for a season so consistently longed for?

 

A corner of my Dining Room

A corner of my Dining Room
A corner of my Dining Room

'Plants Against 2 Windows', Piet Bekaert framed print

Plants Against Two Windows - Piet Bekaert Art Print - Poster
Plants Against Two Windows - Piet Bekaert Art Print - Poster

Simply a moment of sunlight frozen in time - its warmth preserved as nourishment to hang on a wall for those moments when a glance is just enough to ease ...

 

Thank you to Dennis Wepman for his brochure!

That show I attended back in 1984 had a glorious brochure which I still have today. It would be quite wrong of my NOT to thank its author, Mr. Dennis Wepman for that piece and its ensuing contribution to this lens. His research and interpretation of Bekaert's painting was printed on the inside, back cover of the catalog, and has long inspired my admiration of Bekaert's remarkable talent.

D'you own a Bekaert print, poster or original? I'd love to see a photo of it. His paintings are the most luminous pieces that have haunted my entire adult life!

Please share - what do you all think about his work?

So? D'you see why so many of us are passionate about the work of Piet Bekaert?

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      Maumee 2 years ago

      JJ: Very nice to find your site. At least now I know not to keep hunting for an answer re value that may not be there! I bought two works nicely framed and triple matted under glass, that look for all the world like they are originals done in pastel chalk! Was he known to have worked in that medium? They are two of his better known works ("SCULPTURE DANS LE JARDIN" and "Conversation Between Silence And Confidence" . The originals I've read about were all oils on canvas. As I said, they look to me like originals, and the seller also said they were. But it was a casual sale for nominal amounts so, and neither of us knew what we were talking about, so the odds of buying the originals of an artist's most popular works are slim to none. NEVERTHELESS . . . where can I go to find out? PS: I've struck gold on a couple of previous occasions to the consternation of the "experts", so the thrill of the hunt is definitely in play here.

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      Eric 2 years ago

      I hâve a beautiful big painting of Piet Beaker for sale in France m'y mail is no7gallery@gmail.com best regards eric

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      Last month I found a framed and matted print in a second hand store that I fell in love with. I got it home and hung it in my living room. Today I finally got around to doing some research. It is a Piet Bekaert print dated 1988, Garden for Marcel Proust. I have no Idea what it is worth. I think I paid $15.00 for it

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      I lived in Antwerp during 1979 - 85. and visited Piet at his Studio/Gallery in Gent around 20 times. Sometimes he would be working away on his design for buidings or towns or exploring abstract paintings using plaster and paint. His small pencil drawings were exceptional. Drawing was the basis of all his paintings - worked in charcoal - fixed it to the canvas and then played with a colour overwash to create the atmosphere we all have grown to love. A lovely man and unique artist.

    • JulietJohnson profile image
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      JulietJohnson 4 years ago

      @anonymous: How absolutely delightful! What fun to have been next to a Vorpal. That guy had such an eye for bold, exciting artists. I remember some photo realism stuff, but I'm not sure about a Hamaguchi cherry. Thank you for stopping by!

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      I too stumbled across Bekaert's work while on my lunch hour at the Vorpal in San Francisco. I was working practically next door at the Public Health building. The misty, detailed, complicated yet subtle garden subjects and the expert blending of greens overwhelmed me. I purchased two 13" prints and hung them in my office. I also have the catelogue which I treasure. Just cleaning out the closet in my own art studio this morning, I rediscovered my two prints and am going to get them framed. The Vorpal closure was such a loss to all. It had a fabulous variety of artists. I bought a postcard print of a Hamaguchi cherry which I also love to look at, thinking of all those layers of color and patience represented. My prints are of a folding wooden lawn chair (Du Milieu des Fluers) and a statue among a garden of potted plants (Sculpure dans le Jardin) published in 1999 by New York Graphic Society.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      I have an original bekaert that is quite different than most of his work. It is a painting of his daughter in bed under beautiful white sheer sheets. It is exceptional. I am interested in finding its value.

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      JulietJohnson 5 years ago

      @anonymous: It's hard to place a value on these paintings as so few have hit the marketplace. We know that we can insure them for their full purchase value, but what would they get at auction? Those of us who know his work value it accordingly, but I am not sure that there is the same premium in the Art World as a whole. Let me just say that I have not heard that they have appreciated. I'd love to see the 4 you have. Would you be willing to share photos? I can be reached at jj@vizzitopia.com

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      anonymous 5 years ago

      I have four original oils by Piet Bekaert. Does anyone know the approx. value?

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      Pete Schultz 6 years ago

      I've learned something new cruising some of your lenses, and this one piqued my interest. Nicely done and thanks.

    • JulietJohnson profile image
      Author

      JulietJohnson 6 years ago

      @anonymous: Hi Janet, what fun! If you click on my photo, it will take you to my lensmaster page. Once there, you will find a Contact button underneath my photo. I'm no expert, but I'll help you all I can. I'm truly passionate about his work and always have been.

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      anonymous 6 years ago

      I just bought what I believe is an original Bekaert but need to speak to an art afficiando/expert. I am excited yet cautious. Is there a way to contact you directly?

      Janet

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      I have an original that I am trying to determine a value for insurance. It is in the book of his work, I think it is in the center of the book. It is a table with lots of wisteria.

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      anonymous 7 years ago

      I have a dans le hardin signed and dated 1995 do you know anything about this art I noticed rhere are a lot of prints different people are selling but not signed and this is framed under glass.

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      julieannbrady 8 years ago

      Hmmm, I had not heard of this artist before. I personally love impressionistic and abstract art. Looking to learn more!