ESNA Talks

Thijs Dekeukeleire |
Lambeaux and Alexandre: Movement in Belgian fin-de-siècle sculpture and photography

ESNA, in collaboration with RKD – Netherlands Institute for Art History, has organised a series of digital presentations. In the coming months, ten art historians will present new and current research on the art and culture of the long nineteenth century. A new Talk will be published online every three weeks.

First ESNA Talk online

The first ESNA Talk, held by Thijs Dekeukeleire, is entitled Lambeaux and Alexandre: Movement in Belgian fin-de-siècle sculpture and photography. Dekeukeleire obtained his PhD in History and Art History from Ghent University and the University of Antwerp in 2020, with his dissertation Men shaping man: The formative power of the male nude in fin-de-siècle Belgium. He has extensively researched the transformation of the artistic male nude in the late nineteenth century, and is interested broadly in the intersection of the visual arts and cultural history in this era. Thijs Dekeukeleire is a board member of the research platforms De Moderne Tijd and XIX, and a member of the Ghent UniversityFree University of Brussels research group ThIS – The Inside Story.

Two Belgian artists: Jef Lambeaux and Alexandre

In the final two decades of the nineteenth century, the Belgian sculptor Jef Lambeaux (1852-1908) built a reputation as the nation’s premier ‘sculptor of movement’. The ESNA Talk aims to clarify the reasons for and implications of this designation, arguing that Lambeaux’s wrestling groups can be singled out as an especially viable way for the sculptor to work through the conceptual and technical challenges of invoking motion and action in a medium that is by its very nature solid and immobile. In order to more fully explore the question of capturing movement in fin-de-siècle artistic and scientific discourse, the presentation places Lambeaux alongside a peer of his: the photographer Alexandre (born Albert-Édouard Drains, 1855-1925), who in Brussels at precisely the same time, was experimenting in photographing moving human subjects. The full case study of Thijs Dekeukeleire about Lambeaux and Alexandre is set to be published later this year in the book volume Strained Bodies: Physical Tension in Art and Science, edited by Thomas Moser and Wilma Scheschonk. Watch the ESNA Talk Lambeaux and Alexandre: Movement in Belgian fin-de-siècle sculpture and photography above or via this link.

1. Jef Lambeaux, Vengé (Les vengeurs), 1895, bronze, 240 x 205 x 151 cm, Middelheim Museum, Antwerp
2. Alexandre (Albert-Édouard Drains), Untitled [Fight scene with members of L’Essor], c. 1887, gelatin glass plate, 8,5 x 10 cm, Art & History Museum, Brussels