Ferdinand Willaert (1861-1938) was a Belgian artist born in Ghent. He graduated from the Academy in his hometown and then became a professor there. In the years 1890-1892 he made numerous trips to France, Spain and Morocco, where he was engaged in landscape painting. After returning to Belgium, he was a member of many art societies and also took part in organizing exhibitions. In his work he was engaged in landscape painting, mainly depicting corners of Flemish cities. He was inspired by Impressionism, under the influence of which he practiced outdoor painting depicting the atmospheric effects of different times of day and year, based on a brightened palette of colors *.
Description of the painting:
The painting “Canal in Ghent” is a work created under the influence of Impressionism. The view depicts a city canal on a sunny day. Focusing on capturing the view, the artist focused on conveying the light phenomena both on the silvery surface of the water and on the buildings on its banks.
Flanders is a historical-geographic region located along the North Sea in the territories of France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Its heyday dates back to the 12th-15th centuries, when it was the most populated, wealthiest part of Europe and a major economic center. Its population was involved in weaving, cloth production and trade. The main centers of Flanders were Ghent, Antwerp, Bruges and Arras. Hence the specific arras usage for decorative fabrics. From the 15th century, painting developed there, and the leading artists were Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden.
The painting “Canal in Ghent” depicts the titular view on a sunny day. The artist presents the characteristic landscape of Ghent with numerous canals that cross it. The very name of the city is derived from the Celtic word “ganda” denoting the place of the confluence of rivers – here the Lys river flows into the Scheldt. The connecting canals were an important communication route. The composition of the lower edge of the canvas is opened by a mirror of water, stretching across its entire width. The convergent perspective leads us along with the current into the depths of the canvas. The right and left banks are occupied by buildings, the brick structure of which Willaert faithfully reflected in the foreground. Their outlines are reflected in the almost silver mirror of water.
The artist invites the viewer to follow the canal into an undefined, hidden around the corner space of the city. The viewer can become a passenger of a boat crossing the canal, similar to those shown in the painting. Willaert, showing the view of Ghent, focuses on light phenomena, precisely reproducing the direction of the sunlight. The left part of the buildings is created with a bright, whitened palette of colors, giving the effect of strong lighting, almost over-illumination. It contrasts with the right side, shown in darker colors, immersed in the shade. By showing the charming view of Ghent, the artist invites us to his native city.