5 + 1 reasons to visit the exhibition on Theodoor van Loon

Theodore van Loon, Pietà
Theodore van Loon, Pietà

1. Think "Flemish baroque painter" and Rubens immediately springs to mind. Yet there is much more local talent to discover in the 17th century. Theodoor van Loon was an important but lesser-known master who developed his own style independently of his contemporary Rubens, inspired by the work of Italian painters and the chiaroscuro of Caravaggio.

2. Theodoor van Loon combined the typical Flemish accentuation of detail and texture with Italian stylistic elements, such as sharp contrasts between light and shade, ordered compositions and bright colours. The theatricality of his religious paintings with their life-size figures are immediate in their impact. In Van Loon's time this classical approach was much appreciated, bringing him prestigious commissions from both the Archdukes Albrecht and Isabella and religious orders in Brussels and elsewhere. His most famous commission was no doubt for the Basilica of Scherpenheuvel.

3. BOZAR asked contemporary artists to enter into a dialogue with the paintings of Van Loon. The Italian artist Romeo Castellucci gets things going with an altar on which mysterious hairs from a prostitute are proffered. All-round musician and plastic artist Joris Van de Moortel gets to grips with the emotional violence of the baroque while Jan Fabre presents his latest performance film. Media artist Yiannis Kranidiotis has composed a richly varied soundscape for Van Loon's paintings, while Honoré d’O assails images and questions the force of art. 

4. Theodoor van Loon: A Caravaggist painter between Rome and Brussels is the first solo exhibition devoted to van Loon. The works come from international museums including the Louvre, the Museum of Fine Arts in Rouen, Kunstmuseum Basel, the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels, M-Museum Leuven and churches and private collections in Belgium and abroad. Ten works were also restored especially for this exhibition, five of them by the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage (KIK/IRPA). Following the intervention of the King Baudouin Institute this work was funded by the Fonds Baillet Latour. Never before has there been so much of van Loon to admire in one single place. 

5. Van Loon painted his religious works for churches in Brussels and elsewhere, working in close cooperation with the architect Wenceslas Cobergher. To highlight this architectural and historic context, BOZAR is organising in-situ concerts. In the Brussels Beguinage church and Scherpenheuvel music from the early 17th century will be on the programme.

6. Baroque art was a way of conveying Bible stories to the people and for the Catholic Church to respond to the iconoclasm of Protestantism. What was the status of the image, why did it have to be destroyed, how did pictorial art re-emerge after the iconoclasm? With van Loon the miracles of faith once again become visible. Together with contemporary artists and academics BOZAR asks questions about the power of the image, its fall and its renaissance.


With the generous support of the Baillet Latour Fund.
Rediscover this forgotten Brussels' master painter from 10 October at BOZAR.

See also