Feature articles

Gazet van Antwerpen

By Maurits Bilcke, February 24 1950

The attention that the exhibition of Louis Van Lint currently draws in the Palace of Fine Arts, is more than deserved. It is simply needless to have to introduce this artist. Everyone knows that he is one of the most interesting people from the Jeune Peinture Belge, and that he already had a beautiful painter’s youth behind him before this group came into existence. One can follow a logical, harmonious line in the development of his art, where along his calm and stable talent evolves into a maturity of notion and realization, that is impossible to underestimate. Besides two paintings from 1944, one from 1945 and some from ’46, ’47 and ’48, 25 paintings from 1949 are one display, and one from this year. Through the catalogue, that also mentions these dates, one can establish how Van Lint shifted his attention slowly but surely to the non-figurative art of painting. However, all his works possess a strong real character. They remain truly Flemish. The beautiful color palette is the most convincing evidence for this. Not less interesting is the impressive “delineation” and the equal composition of these paintings. One could also justly point at the bold imagination and the strong evocation power of the latest works, that undoubtedly show that Van Lint, even in his figurative works, is not finished yet in proving the personality of his talent, as well as showing emotional evidence of his healthy and aristocratic temperament.
© Gazet van Antwerpen, all rights reserved

 

De Standaard

Art and life gestures

By Urbain Van De Voorde, June 13 1952

As well as in the Gallery Apollo as in the Séminaire des Arts (that with this, at the end of the season, has –temporarily?- reopened as a showroom of artworks), there are currently expositions of abstract works on display. In the first room, one can find paintings of the Belgian painters Gaston Bertrand, Marc Mendelson and Louis Van Lint. In the other room, abstract paintings have been gathered of a significant group of artists, presumably mainly strangers, and of which only a few names are familiar to me. However, the names are not very important. Of almost all abstract “conducts”, because undoubtedly, there is also a differentiation in conducts at the non-figuratives, we already witnessed specimens in the early years, of which much of what is recently being shown to us by predecessors bears such a great resemblance to, that it is hard to keep them apart. How else could it be? Constructions with nothing but lines and colored, more or less geometric figures, or even with pure color without a trace of a drawing can maybe produce the possibility of an endless amount of leeway, but within the boundaries of the three or four conducts that one can distinguish, the similarities remain too evident, that it will be very difficult to put a name on those works at first sight. Purposefully or not, the painters with no imagination almost fully distance themselves from their personality. This has to be inevitable from the moment that they are absorbed by the world of the pure plastics or pure color: nothing is more impersonal than the Mathematics and although these young painters and sculptors are anything but mathematics, their paintings more often resemble illustrations for a geometry schoolbook than works of art. It is curious that they seem to be encouraged not by the down to earth and ready intelligences such as exact sciences people are, but by pseudo-philosophers and preachers and supporters of vague esotericism and mysticism, mostly scatterbrains, and indeed the most radical antipodes of mathematical minds. Or are we facing something like an artistic pythagorism, a mystic not made out of numbers, but perpendiculars, curves and flats (where numbers, at least in mathematics, make up the basis of expressing these proportions)? More than one phenomenon at least does point to the fact that some abstracts have become the victim of a sort of modern mystics. These days, many lack mental support, so the youth becomes an easy prey for the abstruse theories and writings. Many use these to give a “positive” basis to the art that lacks imagination. The abstraction seems naïve, but deep down it is godless, and the apology of the Nothing. It does not seem needless to me to also pinpoint to that side, at least for those who might mean well, but have unintentionally been hypnotized by various pernicious perceptions, that often cover their true faces. The time that certain precursors of art innovation introduced abstract paintings as almost a sort of experiment, is over. These days, a whole army of painters from all countries practices this, no longer as a test or study, but for themselves. She even has, if you believe some, “spiritual” attempts. That is where one can notice the influence of the supporters of this art, which are of the opinion that she is the spirit of our time. Well, she might be, but then of the emptiness, which is a sign of these times.
That the young, abstract painters now find themselves in a dangerous adventure, is something that they must have anticipated. It should have been clear beforehand that the paintings they produce are still at the same point as the ones by Kandinsky, Klee, Picasso, Mondriaan, van der Leek and others from the years before World War I. The Nothing simply does not have many aspects, whether one expresses this through the emptiness of geometrical figures, by the chaos of pureness, or even objectless color. This is why people are no longer surprised when they enter an exhibition with abstract works. People have seen this, or something like this, before. The pleasant color impression that sometimes comes with it, has already touched us before, and often also with a figure or a landscape, because the figurative painters were and are still no beginners in the profession! In short, I do not agree with this nihilistic destruction of our world. And when I am incapable or unwilling of closing my eyes for this movement, that seems to capture our country more and more, when I try to perceive any possible “material” in it, then this does not mean that I like it in the first place. The opposite is true. And I mainly fear that young, gifted talents could lose themselves in something, or at least waste their time with something that I think has no future and comes down to the negation of Creator, creation and life.
© De Standaard, all rights reserved

 

Gazet van Antwerpen

Exhibition in Brussels

By Maurits Bilcke, February 5 1958

Palace of Fine Arts: Van Lint presents a very intriguing overview of his paintings, gouaches and drawings of the last two years. We are under the impression that Van Lint has found himself again after a colder period that may have suited him less, but nevertheless turned out well for him. Something striking is the calm harmony between form and color, between the organized mind and the more intuitive hand. His personal “way of writing” and rhythm in defining one part of the painting against another, is stronger than ever. When it comes to the material, no matter what exquisite care he gives to it, he never becomes its slave. No matter how rich she has become, he knows how to fully and purely use it in his plastic vision. That is not the least of his services, that are impossible to fully analyze here. What has also touched us deeply, is the fact that these paintings actually “truly” express what the artist wants to portray, nothing more, but definitely nothing less either. More clearly: Van Lint reaches an unbreakable unity between himself and his work, thanks to a cool knowledge of his boundaries and his possibilities. We do not think that we exaggerate when we state that this is the most beautiful Van Lint exhibition that we have every laid our eyes on.
© Gazet van Antwerpen, all rights reserved

 

France-Amérique

Belgian artists in New York

By Saint-Evremond, July 24 1960

Van Lint, colored, marbled, offers us vast and generous Tachist compositions, that bring to mind Kandinsky, even as he infuses his work with a more generous breath. The spiritual sketches from Tytgat, and above all his remarkable young woman, in languid tones with pencil strokes rendered with extraordinary delicacy.
© France-Amérique, all rights reserved

 

La Libre-Belgique

Van Lint 81: always fascinating

By Jean Pigeon, exhibition at the Armorial gallery, October 2 1981

While so many false "glories" suspect or overrated, hold forth and parade repeatedly, frames on picture rails,  it is really difficult to imagine a man less self-obsessed than Louis Van Lint: sorry, one could say Van Lint, full stop, such a thing is surely the preserve of masters.
His talent, his sureness of style, his consistency, has led, over a long period of time, to his justifiable installation in the exclusive club of uncontested leaders of Belgian painting. He has permanently stamped the latter with his mark of distinction. It is almost superfluous to write about it.
And yet, it's always with the reticence of the young artist, with a desire to persuade, a passion for self-expression, a fear of offending, relative to be sure, in his case, that Van Lint approaches each of his public events, scheduled periodically in our capital. 
There, where others would satisfy themselves with tried and tested products and would rest on their comfortable laurels, he never hesitates to carry on reconsidering his position. He knows, alas, that a certain falling off is always possible, and that Nicolas de Stael himself has not entirely escaped this, as a recent Parisian retrospective demonstrated.
Van Lint fears making a false step and he takes great care to preserve in his art a quality of upward momentum, which he pursues on canvas in his studio in Kraainem, through his demanding explorations of plastic art. He is his own sternest critic and doesn't tolerate anything at all that misses the mark.
Approaching him via his preferred gallery, Serge Goyens, with the fruit of around three years' of his mature work on display, allows the visitor to feel not only the joy of renewed recognition but also the pleasure of encountering an abstract art of such great musicality, so far from exhausted, as some would have us believe, on the contrary, one that retains its prestige and eloquence. That is what really avenges us on so much surrounding trivia.
Van Lint is no stranger to reality, a frequent temptation in today's world. He has his antennas up. Very receptive, they vibrant in response to slyly bizarre phenomena. They alert him to the onset of dangers, while still teaching him how to avert them. How? By recourse to the eternal values of nature, the virtues of stoicism, of wisdom, of the benefits of patient contemplation. 
Paintings or watercolors in various formats, his compositions speak for him. They bear witness to psychic experiences that are highly-internalized and deeply-felt. They are founded on the rupture and re-establishment of rhythms, always sifted by a highly-professional critical reflection. By formal analysis, fragments (rings, filaments, comets, plants, flowers, polyps, wings…) as if magnified under a microscope, correspond to projected types of spatialized images, obeying a geometry where fantasy might also have a say.
In offering works entitled "Nature sign", "Magnetic space". Spring dynamic", "Daily wanderings" or "The flight to where?", Van Lint disturbs and reassures at the same time. He practices the analogy of the imaginary that Bachelard named "the dynamic return of material intimacy". This is all done without the self-important pretension of delivering "messages".
If one adds that the colors used are superb, in the freshness of their accord or their daring (successful) clashing, one can understand that Van Lint is as at ease in a pure and variegated abstraction as a dolphin in a wave or Sebastian Coe running a mile long course.
© La Libre Belgique, all rights reserved

 

Le Soir

An important art book in homage to the abstract painter Louis Van Lint

By Paul Caso, August 31 1983

The President of the French Community in Belgium, has just dedicated a weighty text to our great  painter Louis Van Lint, with an introduction by Philippe Robert-Jones, and an initial welcome message from Georges Sion, who analyses the painter’s self-portrait of 1944, which was already mirroring a distinctive sense of freedom. We have known Van Lint for some twenty-five years. We have seen him sometimes suffering from isolation, reflecting internally and with a certain anxiety on the adventure of form, assessing the difficulty of becoming known at the heart of an international artistic life dominated by trade circuits, soul-crushing agencies and biased eulogists. We have never seen Louis Van Lint discouraged.
He has remained faithful to his choices. He has risen irresistibly through the levels that lead to the summit of the passionate life of the artist, "so that he is himself, finally" is as situated by Philippe Roberts-Jones, Chief Curator of Belgium's Royal Museums of Ancient and Modern Art: Painting is Van Lint's language; as poetry is Eluard's. She reveals herself to him and he rewards her; they exist, one for the other, in unrestrained mutual giving and in an accord where fullness is nothing other than a source of generosity.
When the Art Historian is also a poet, one can be assured that he will go further than others in his approach to a painter: He immerses himself in the work and illuminates it. This is the case with the subtle and moving texts that Philippe Robert-Jones reserves for the man whom one might consider the greatest of our living artists, still so youthful in his latest works that it is astonishing to find out that he is contentedly living out his seventh decade. Certainly it is worth asking, whether there are still countries who can gather together a generation of artists such as Louis Van Lint, Gaston Bertrand, Marc Mendelson, Jan Cox, Lismonde, Jo Delahaut, Antoine Mortier ou Luc Peire, let alone newcomers such as Pierre Alechinsky or Pol Bury? Philippe Robert-Jones responds to that scrutiny: to put the question, is to respond to it, is to measure the good fortune that Brussels has not exploited.
It was a while before we realized that there was an alternative to the international list, artists other than the inevitable names invariably pushed forward from one capital to another. Recent retrospectives for Albert Dasnoy, Georges Grard et Pierre Caille have - if they are to be recalled - paid justice to some eminent creators.
And so we come to Louis Van Lint, a painter who has been Ensor-like and animistic from his debut, at the frontier of figurative painting, seized by the metamorphosis of form, and from 1948, more than passing the threshold of abstraction. Everything becomes responsive, vibrant, elliptical, with a refinement that brightens the palette. The painter-poet states that he is trying to translate what he feels. This "organized lyricism" will become the keystone of his work. Philippe Robert Jones notes that if Van Lint searches for the value of color in the chromatic world, he seeks, in delineation, the life of a cadence. But the arabesque, with him, is not simply the limit of form or its definition, but as often with Matisse, it exists in one form or another, like a symphony that binds a dialogue to color. 
And so the artist pursues his chimera. The Art Historian has seen him move in and out of his paintings, leaving the windows open, an inexhaustible alchemist of his dreams.
Please note that this evocation of the body of work is realized alongside interviews with Van Lint, which are a reflection of conversations between the painter, Jean Sartenaer and René Léonard.
Are you happy with your body of work? Van Lint was asked. He replied that his didn't know of any canvas with which he was one hundred percent satisfied, but when he came to review a number of them, he was surprised to think: All the same, this isn't nothing, something happened. What sense of amazement is more modest than this?
© Le Soir, all rights reserved

 

Le Soir

A fluid and high class delineation
A first true retrospective of the work of Louis Van Lint at Ixelles Museum

By Danièle Gillemon, February 19 2003

In Belgium, Louis Van Lint (1909-1986) has long been considered a prince of abstraction. A little like our Nicolas de Staël, albeit that his destiny has been markedly less tragic than that of the French painter.
As a Belgian artist, he has not benefited from comparable fame, he has been slightly forgotten in the last few decades, which is all the more curious as he was appreciated and supported during his lifetime. However collectors, often foreigners from other places, have not been so mistaken, and as true amateurs, have jealously conserved his works.
Today, under the auspices of Serge Goyens de Heusch, the Commissioner for Abstract Painting, Ixelles Museum is restoring him to a place of honor, in a manner rarely seen. An initial scientific exhibition and an even more moving and fine retrospective, are perhaps fulfilling something that has been long awaited.
Louis Van Lint belongs to the same family of abstract painters as Gaston Bertrand, Jo Delahaut, Antoine Mortier, Marc Mendelson…Like them, he knew the adventure of "The Young Belgian Painters" ["La Jeune Peinture Belge"] at the end of the Second World War. Like them he was, at the crossroads of contradictory influences (Flemish Expressionism, Brabant Fauvism, Cubism, Surrealism, Cobra…) a period of Figurative painting, marked by an irony that was occasionally spectral, a poetry of atmosphere that often produced good and distinctive paintings.
It was after the "Young Belgian Painters" sequence, with their abstract metamorphoses, their evolution towards a lyrical style - or, in contrast, a geometric style, even minimal, radical like the works of Jo Delahaut or Antoine Mortier - that the work of each of these painters was truly differentiated.  And so this beautiful heritage was formed, one that has been unjustly cantoned as solely Belgian.
Many among them, and certainly Van Lint, showed a real inventiveness in terms of plastic art  One can appreciate even more the fine quality of the exhibition, by the way it selects and brings to light the painter's fine delineation, his strongest works. It must be emphasized that it also shows the variety of a pictorial quest that passes through different phases of abstraction, without banalising them. The breaking wave of abstraction in the Fifties, as much on the Belgian as the French front, which has held the high ground for so long, is often overly academic and reductive. Van Lint, best seen with hindsight, is rigorously outside such impoverishment.
Never quite losing sight of the figure (the magnificent self portrait of 1951, "Man Shaving"), always returning to nature, to a precise, even obsessive, observation of natural phenomena or objects (tools, musical instruments…) his painting has equally to evade it, constructing these observed phenomena and emotions so that they lead to a language that quivers but is also rigorous.
With him there are no free outbursts nor gestures as such, but rather a real scaling of forms, a breath that literally takes wing in the Seventies, supported by clear colors, pastel tones broken by the vivacity of vermillion francs, the seduction of tender blues, the roar of whites.
With regard to his last period - the painter died in 1986 - one might prefer, as we do, the varied works of the Fifties and Sixties, which in this case, are so well chosen and hung. Two works in particular, albeit atypical, such as "Untitled 1954" where Van Lint appeared to have stopped time in large, clear forms whose great beauty is well able to give voice to a certain high class language.
Very different - it announces the delineation at once fluid and clashing which would become the distinguishing mark of the painter - the "Large Composition in Red" (1957) in the Royal Museum of Fine Arts manifests a similarly high level of articulation. The same is true of many other paintings such as "Winter Scripture", "Autumn Savagery" (1961) and watercolors that can be viewed on the mezzanine.
© Le Soir, all rights reserved

 

The Bulletin Art Reviews

Exhibition Louis Van Lint
Ixelles Museum

By Sarah McFadden, March 20 2003

The first ever retrospective devoted to Louis Van Lint (1909-1986) charts this much-admired Brussels painter’s progress from a prosaic if promising academic start to an inspired, sublime finish. Like many artists of his generation, Van Lint began as a figurative painter and ended up a confirmed abstractionist. The conversion didn’t happen overnight, nor was it absolute, for traces of the figure and allusions to the visible world persisted in his work until the end. His achievement was to sublimate these references in a refined abstract idiom that was all his own.
Van Lint says he found his calling when the burgomaster of Saint-Josse gave him a set of oils to paint an enlarged copy of a satirical cartoon featuring the politician himself. This modest encouragement led 15-year- old Van Lint to enrol in the commune’s art academy, where he studied part-time for 12 years while Working in his father’s construction firm. He left the academy in 1937, shortly after this show begins with a drab if endearing little farmscape from 1936. It is clear
that he had a lot to learn, and probably to unlearn as Well.
Paintings from 1943 and 1944 show the influence of James Ensor, whose caricatural figures Van Lint quotes in scenes targeting social injustices. Sinister puppets hanging in the artist’s studio are evidence of his debt and homage to the Ostend master, who was then in his 80s.
Tendencies towards abstraction and expressive color emerge together in portraits and interiors after 1945. Still LUfe with Basket (1946), which features a metal-ribbed basket, grater, whisk and other kitchen implements on a blue table top, attests to the painter’s involvement with Cubist space and volume and Matisse-like color. It also hints at his admiration for simple, functional objects: Van Lint studied the Brussels Conservatory’s collection of early musical instruments for their sculptural beauty. He also collected antique tools.
Even more two-dimensional is the 1946 Fence. This patchwork of irregular grids, honeycomb modules, multicolored dots and spiraling, bright-orange curlicues also reads as a View through a ragged chain-link and barbed-wire barrier.
Van Lint explained Fence as a metaphor for the lamentable state of contemporary politics and human relations. As a co-founder in 1945 of Jeune Peinture Belge, a group of artists committed to forging a new art of personal and universal relevance, unfettered by rules or ideology, Van Lint enjoyed unprecedented freedom. His experiments with magic lantern projections and his increasingly cursive abstractions caught the attention of the Cobra artists, with
whom he worked from 1949 to 1951.
Next came a three-year immersion in Constructivism, which produced some superb paintings. In 1956, he returned for inspiration to observation of the World around him, transforming experience into visual expression.
Striking out with fiery, stormy, scumbled fields of paint in the 1960s, Van Lint cooled his palette, thinned his oils, slowed down his stroke and dissolved his forms. By 1978, he was producing diaphanous Works like Written Light with its astounding formal subtleties. Airy shapes float over veils of lavender, shades of grey, dull orange, green and creamy gold. Winter Games (1980-85) produces the same effect using pale yellow, cornflower blue and whispers of grey, cream and white. The title of the latest workin the show, Threshold of the Unexplored (1986), seems to indicate Van Lint’s exact position when he left off. It also suggests that he could have continued on and on.
© The Bulletin, all rights reserved