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Katherine Knorr

Related: Belgium - Paris

The Brussels-Paris Connection

Relations between France and Belgium have always been a curious mixture not so much of love and hate as of benign neglect and disdain.

If Brussels now is to many in France the symbol of all that is wrong about Europe, it was in the mid-19th century the symbol of all that was crass and bourgeois about wealth and commerce and colonialism. And yet in the second half of the century a kind of golden age brought together Belgian and French artists whose tragedies and whose genius traveled back and forth between the artistic capital of Europe and its provincial cousin.

The Paris-Brussels connection is the subject of an intriguing exhibition at the Grand Palais (to July 14), with small related shows at the Musee Rodin, looking at the years the sculptor spent in Belgium, and at the Musee d'Orsay, centered on the Belgian poet, art critic and collector Emile Verhaeren, Flemish but Francophone, a key figure in the rich exchanges between the two countries.

The Grand Palais show is an ambitious and sometimes puzzling attempt to pull together painting, sculpture, architecture, literature, music and the decorative arts to show how Belgian and French artists influenced one another, from Delacroix to Courbet to Ensor, Rodin to Minne, Rops to Redon on the art side; Hugo to Maeterlinck, by way of Verlaine, Rimbaud, Baudelaire and Mallarme for literature, or Eugene Ysaye, Vincent d'Indy, Cesar Franck and Debussy for music. --Katherine Knorr, International Herald Tribune, late 1990s

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