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Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA)

Flemish Culture: An Overview

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Flanders is situated on the crossroads of 3 cultures: German, Roman and Anglo-Saxon. This makes Flemish people very open to influences from abroad, be they cultural, culinary, social or professional. Generally, Flemings are described as rather modest, but recent history shows that they are actually progressive people with an open view on the world. For instance, almost very Fleming speaks at least one other language, which simplifies contacts with people from other cultures.

Art and history

Early low-country painting, epitomised by the works of the Van Eyck brothers, Dirk Bouts, Rogier van der Weyden, Hans Memling and Jeroen Bosh, hang in the world’s foremost museums. During the sixteenth and seventeenth century, the brilliant Pieter Bruegel, Pieter Paul Rubens and Antoon Van Dyck were the main propagators of the Flemish visual culture, which clearly interfaced domestic traditions and European perspectives. Flanders produced some great artists in the twentieth century too, including James Ensor, Constant Permeke, and Frits Van den Berghe. Contemporary painters of which the region can be proud include Luc Tuymans, Roger Raveel and Octave Landuyt. Both performing artist and sculptor Jan Fabre and artist-designer Panamarenko regularly produce provocative or ingenious works of art.


Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker has put contemporary choreography on the map with her dance company Rosas and international dance school P.A.R.T.S. Other prominent dance figures are Wim Vandekeybus and Alain Platel.


Flemish fashion designers (Walter Van Beirendonck, Ann Demeulemeester, Dries van Noten, Dirk Van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs and Martin Margiela) are known throughout the world. Such Artists as Raf Simons, Kaat Tilley and Veronique Branquinho are heralding the arrival of a new breed of designers.


Classical music is popular in Flanders. The Flemish polyphonists included Josquin des Prez, at the time the Michelangelo of music, and Orlandus Lassus. The Queen Elisabeth Music Competition is felt to be one of the most prestigious and toughest there is. Competition disciplines are violin (since 1951), piano (since 1952), composition (since 1953) and singing (since 1988). It is named in honour of Elisabeth I of Belgium (1876-1965).
Numerous Flemish top class musicians have graced the jazz scene. The number of Flemish bands and singers attracting large crowds abroad has continued to increase in recent years.


Flemish literature boasts many fascinating authors, including Hugo Claus, Louis Paul Boon and Herman De Coninck, the most celebrated post-war writers in Flanders, while the contemporary scene is peopled by such poets as Leonard Nolens, essayists like Geert Van Istendael, prose writers such as Kriestien Hemmerechts and Erwin Mortier, rebellious authors like Herman Brusselmans, suspense writers like Jef Geeraerts and Pieter Aspe, young authors such as Marc de Bel and Bart Moeyaert, and promising newcomers like Jeroen Olyslaeghers and Dimitri Verhulst.