About the artist
Constant Permeke is a Belgian painter and sculptor born on July 31, 1886 in Antwerpen. But moved to Ostend at the age of 6. He is considered one of the leading figures of Belgian expressionism.
In Ostend his father, a landscape painter, founded the Municipal Museum of Arts in 1893. Permeke studied at the Bruges Academy from 1903 to 1906 and enrolled at the Academy of Ghent from 1906 to 1908. It was here that he met Frits van den Berghe and the brothers Gustave and Léon De Smet. After his military service he moved back to Ostend where he moved in together with Gustave De Smet. A year later he returned to Sint-Martens-Latem where he also stayed during his military service. Here he lived in recluse. His work form this time is characterised by a bheavy brush and gains its expressive force through brutal forms and muted tonality.
In 1912 Permeke married Maria Delaere and they settled in Ostend. After he suffered a wound during World War I he and his family were forced to evacutae to the United Kingdom where, after recovering, his son John was born. Despite the family’s happiness in Devonshire they moved to Ostend once again but the harsh reality of the the worker’s life turned Permeke’s work back to a more dark and depressive mood.
During the 1920s and 1930s Permeke exhibits his work in Antwerp and Paris. He regulary went to Astene and Vevey in Switzerland. In 1929 he moved to Jabbeke where he changed his subject from fishermen and their seas to farmers and their lands. During this period he was enormously productive. He painted works like "Gouden Oogst" (1935), "De Grote Marine" (1935), "Moederschap" (1936), "Het Afscheid" (1948), "Dagelijks Brood" (1950). In 1937 he started sculpting. Permeke tried to isolate the human figure in monumental efforts. "De Zaaier" (1939), "Niobe" (1946) and "De Drie Gratiën" (1949) are sculptures of this period.
After World War II Permeke was appointed director of the National higher Institute and the Royal Academy in Antwerp but resigned after just a year. He had a big retrospective in Paris but his happiness was soon shattered when his wife died in 1948. Emotionally scarred he would never recover from this.
During the last period of his life his work was more mildly, more mellow. Permeke showcased a refinement in drawing and colours. His last works are "De dame met de rode handschoenen" (1951) and some landscapes painted in Brittany.
Constant Permeke died on 4 January 1952. He was buried next to his wife at the cemetery in Jabbeke. On the grave of his beloved wife was placed a statue, which Permeke had commissioned from his friend George Minne.
In 1997, Belgium recognised Permeke's achievements by having his portrait and one of his works imprinted on the 1,000 Franc bill where it remained unil Belgium adopted the Euro in 2002.