Monday, September 26, 2011
Three of our five days in Belgium were spent in Brussels. One of our first destinations was the Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History. Some of which looked a lot like the museum at our own Australian War Memorial....
but some rooms had quite a different feel! Some startling relics of colonialism.
They love their comics (sorry, 'BD') in Belgium. Tintin and the Smurfs are everywhere, as both were created by Belgians.
There are several of these large murals on city buildings. The European comics/BD scene seems to have a much more mature understanding of the potential of the graphic medium to tell any kind of story. The mainstream view here (and I dare say, in the US and UK as well?) so easily reverts to tired old assumptions that comics are mainly about superheroes and other topics for children or the childish. The bookshop at the Brussels military museum had a large range of comics about war and history, which is just not something you would ever see here.
The Grand Place (Groot Markt) was grand! Some of the buildings have been cleaned and repaired magnificently, topped with lots of shiny gold. I love the facade cloths used while the building is under repair. I've seen them before - maybe in Krakow? London? - and they never fail to amuse.
A major highlight was spending time in the Bruegel room in the Museum of Ancient Art (part of the Royal Museums of Fine Arts). They have a couple of paintings by Pieter Bruegel the elder, and some of his sons' paintings and copies. All wonderful - it's easy to see why these paintings are so popular and well loved. The scenes of peasant life are charming and real, along with bits of torture and misery, partly due to the Hieronymous Bosch influence. A few rooms away there was also one Bosch, a copy made by his own workshop I believe. I have Rolf to thank for first introducing me to the Bruegel family. Thanks Rolf.