Rik Wouters & The Private Utopia

Themes of enchanting homeliness by painter Rik Wouters, as well as the intimate feelings of sanctity between him and his wife Nel, forms the premise of this exhibition. Wouters was the only artist in our region to combine post-Impressionist painting techniques with simple domestic scenes. His expressive brush strokes and the unfinished style of his canvases give a dynamic to his work that, combined with the emphasis on lighting and colour, result in an enchanting and optimistic quality.

Visitor information

  • Location

    MoMu - ModeMuseum Antwerp

Description of the exhibition

Wouters had his fair share of difficulties in life, yet the harmonious ‘good life’ takes centre stage in his work. His love for Nel was a motivating force in his work and her lust for life and energy inspired him to create many well-known paintings and sculptures.

In this exhibition, the contemporary movement in which people are again seeking domestic intimacy and contact with nature, the ‘slow’ movement and the renewed attention for traditional techniques, like ceramics, weaving and dyeing, are linked with the utopian philosophy from Henry David Thoreau’s book Walden. Published in 1854 Walden presented the non-industrial, natural way of life as an alternative to the overstimulation of consumer society. In painting, we see a similar change in Impressionism in the mid-nineteenth century, shifting from ‘bourgeois’ art to more of an internalisation highlighting the beauty of the natural way of life with an emphasis on lighting.

Today, the notion of shelter and sanctity is reflected in both conceptual art and applied design (fashion, interior, and design). These worlds overlap in a utopian quest for the essence of ‘the good life’ – or simply put: what does a person need to be happy? This search is expressed in a predilection for self-reliance and in the combination of pure materials with traditional techniques.

Various Belgian fashion designers — including Dirk Van Saene, Bruno Pieters, Christian Wijnants, Walter Van Beirendonck, Ann Demeulemeester, Dries Van Noten, Veronique Branquinho, Martin Margiela, Jan-Jan Van Essche and Anne Kurris — give their individual interpretations of these thoughts: some by choosing specific fabrics and techniques, and others through their idiosyncratic position in fashion, in which they do not give praise to the hectic pace of the fashion world. Contemporary artists in this exhibition are BLESS, Atelier E.B., Berlinde De Bruyckere, and Ben Sledsens.

This exhibition is a partnership between MoMu – Fashion Museum Antwerp and the Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA) to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of painter Rik Wouters in 2016. The exhibition brings together work by Rik Wouters from the KMSKA collection and pieces by contemporary artists and fashion designers.

Exhibition under the lead of
Curators: Karen Van Godtsenhoven & Hedwig Todts | Scenographer: Bob Verhelst