Monday, September 26, 2011

In Brussels

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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.


amy said...

Hmm, I don't know on the graphic novels. They cover quite a range here. I'm most familiar with the ones for kids/teens, because that's what I have (my 9yo reads above level so we wander into the young adult section too, and I just try to screen for content), but we adults like some of the "kid" ones too. They're not just all superheroes, definitely not.
My 9yo is also a fan of TinTin. I had no idea the Belgians created Smurfs, though.

Donna Lee said...

I'm a big fan of the graphic novels. When I was teaching reading to kids with learning disabilities, they were a big help in getting them to read anything.

I agree with your assessment though. We have a tendency to think comics are for kids but the best ones appeal to adults as well.

Olivia said...

Yes, just to clarify, I definitely don't believe that American comics/graphic storytelling lack for a wide range of subjects and audiences... just that most people in the mainstream (and in the media) don't realise it.

Anonymous said...

Amazing photos my love. Your skill is increasing. And I love the facade cloths.... I thought it was a pane of something sheer like perspex so people could see the progress. lovely to have you back here though. ily ma