Born in Antwerp, Belgium on June 24 1923.
Died in Putte Kapellen, Belgium on August 27 2001.
ROYAL ACADEMY and HIGH INSTITUTE of FINE ARTS, ANTWERP
Carl DE ROOVER - Painting
Walter VAES - Painting
Oscar VERPOORTEN - Painting
Roger AVERMAETE - Art History
A.J.J. DELEN - Art History
Lode ZIELENS - Letters
From ethereal cosmic art to cosmic naturalism
On June 24 1923 Stan Baele was born in Antwerp. After being advised by the
renowned art critic Roger Avermaete, Stan"s parents sent their son to the
Academy. He finished the whole cycle of courses at the Royal Academy of Fine
Arts in Antwerp, after which he also enjoyed a further education at the National
Higher Institute of Fine Arts until 1946.
Where professor Walter Vaes gave him golden advice about painting techniques,
Karel de Posson taught him to feel the soul or spirit of a painting. As you can
see, Stan Baele was clasically formed. In 1945 he was able to make use of a
painting studio in the old town centre of Antwerp. Two years later however he
transformed an old hunting cabin, situated in 'Ter Rivierenhof park' in Deurne,
into his almost legendary second studio. It was there that his painting
adventure really started.
In a time where isms from abroad washed over Belgium"s art scene, and also over
Stan Baele, he found the courage,as early as 1946 , to leave a lot of the
traditional values for what they were and start the exploration of his inner
self, without influence from the outside world. This cosmic abstract period
would last up until 1959. Baele at the time was strongly theosophically and
philosophically minded. From day to day and year to year he practiced a
meditative way of thinking. Because of this, a deeper understanding of nature,
man and cosmos was able to arise within him and he became able to measure life"s
appearances. Baele preferred the inward look, the building of an inner culture
and the importance of a pure spirit.
With this state of mind he distanced himself from the uprising isms and the
materialism that had forgotten how to live in harmony with the spirit. His work
from that period mostly displayed an abstract character, but had an underlying
spiritual content: it wanted to express feelings without recognizable imagery.
The pictoral means he used were also subject to an ascetism: the most elementary
of colours – red, yellow, blue, black and white, brought to the canvas in the
most elementary form. Therefore one of the greatest misconceptions about Stan
Baele is that he had developed his technique over the years, that he had learned
to paint while painting! Apart from the logical result of learning while doing
(the experience mostly spiritual and abstract), he was blessed with a natural
talent of drawing and painting. His technique of both was already developed
between 1937 and 1946.
Even though Stan Baele didn"t forsake his naturalistic self(before 1946 the
surroundings of the lower river Scheldt, the Land of Waas and the heith of
Kalmthout national reserve were his working field for spatial and landscape
studies and in 1952 a trip to Switzerland introduced him to the mountain ranges,
ravines and springs), we have to place the works he made in this period in the
realm of the mind. The spirit expresses itself most in the fact that man is
subject to evolution and development, which revealed itself to him with a
purifying intensity. Meanwhile we have to note that the power to develop and
change, both characterising events of spiritual life, will continue to fascinate
him in his second period, as he directs his view to the outside world.
In 1946 he painted 'Organic Life', a first attempt to create a work without any
influence from outside. Contradictory to the beliefs of the time, that ignored
content systematically, Baele primarily wanted to explore and understand form.
Noteworthy paintings from that first period provide an image of that development.
'Meditation' (1947) and 'Devil"s Rite' (1948) are in a certain way opposite to
one another: the ordered thoughts in the first named, mysthical painting
contrast with the chaotic abandoning of thought, through impulse, in the latter.
The painting 'Death' (1948) implied a first culmination and a clue as to what
direction he and his work had to take. This theosophically inspired work reveals
the mystery of being : dissolution and assimilation with the cosmos . The
painting ' Initiation of the Cross'(1954) , an almost linear composition , in
sober colours , marks a culmination : the cosmic Christ, an intense mental
awareness, an initiated moment. Also the spiritually inspired 'Evocation' dates
from this period, (1955). 'The Fall' (1959) is experienced as a last culmination
and at the same time ending of Baele"s floating period, namely the fall of the
mind into materiality. Where before everything breathed an ascendant character,
now all movement is directed downwards. In 1958 Brussels saw Baele"s first
exhibition (Galerie Lautrec) of cosmic paintings. Two years later he held a
second exhibition of similar works in Antwerp the town of his birth (Galerij
Dr. Raymond Piper, Ph. D. Boston University, Professor of Philosophy – Syracuse
University, U.S.A., who was working on a book about 'Cosmic Art' in which works
of Stan Baele would appear, wrote: 'In Stan Baele we meet that rare artist who
comprehends the nature of fine art and who has committed his life-long training
and struggle to realizing it.'
The indolent period 1959-1963 meant a less fruitful phase of silence and
breakdown. But with 'Gothic Requiem' (1964), a true cornerstone work, Stan Baele
awoke on a graveyard, in a manner of speaking. It"s a nostalgic retrospective
view into a somewhat ghostly composition, wherein a mysterious light still
shines with hope. From that moment onwards his work would slowly light up. For
years he was heavily influenced by Gothic design. This Gothic obsession is also
represented in 'Nostradamus' (1965), which had come to him from the serene
consecration of the Notre Dame of Paris. 'Te Deum' is in the same style . It is
here that a lot of symbolic attributes and the victorious light get to play
their part. Baele paints a window, pointing to a contact with the town, the
metropolis as an abstract city molecule, buildings decayed by the poisonous city
atmosphere. 'Metropolis', 'Windows upon the Future'.
Towards the city he takes an ambivalent stance. But slowly nature starts to get
the upper hand again. Trips to France, Spain, Germany, Austria and Italy aren"t
just escapism, because they stimulate his interest for caverns , rock formations
, breakers and water. Moreover, they empower his imagination about relationship
between spirit , man and nature. The image of a tree stump in the painting '
Ecce Homo'(1967) reminds us more or less of a certain human shape : the face has
the indefinable grey of a hearth fire that was put out. Man connected to nature.
Forests, trees, tree stumps and roots appear in his work. Those subjects reveal
his evolution towards naturalism. The outward view becomes active again through
his work. Armed with the already acquired technical means, he will express
genetic perceptions - the cosmicity that manifests itself in nature. The traces
of human presence in ruins, castles, churches and cities move him. Architectural
scars are traced as well as fossilized remains. He sees the solidified form of
life return through life itself. Thus his passion for the fibrous structure of
tree stumps, for the almost anatomically sculpted trees and roots – even though
attached to the soil, still a form of life. Stan Baele discovers a way of
animating the pattern, that relies on collective knowledge and, for many, hidden
reality. From his viewpoint he studies the Bible – itself filled with
revelations regarding nature. He gets influenced by Teilhard de Chardin, who saw
the evolving of conscienceness throughout the earth"s history as the purpose of
Especially from 1969 onwards we can notice a definite opening up of nature in
the oeuvre. Stan Baele wants to present the threatened nature as it exists in
harmony. He wants to show the wonder of it. Show that trees are living things.
How waterfalls erode rocks. How the highest powers of creation have worked to
create rock formations. He suggests a syncronisation of numerous forms and
develops a specific form by doing this – a rythm of lines.
The animal starts to play an important role. Baele observes and sketches many
animals in the Antwerp Zoo. His melancholy about species that have become
extinct, is clearly visible. Baele"s drawings of animals form the antithesis of
what traditional painters of animals have presented us with. He raises the
question of how animals adapt and maintain themselves and how they stand out in
Thus his attention for the mysterious phenomenon of the adaptability for
mimicry, mutations, the ecology and the behaviour of animals, for the striking
skin of zebras, tigers, butterflies , for the mysterious orientation
possibilitys of birds , for the jumping of horses and the phenomenon of the herd.
The drawing was initially in Baeles Oeuvre and was indicative of the painting,
also like the aquarelle has formed an introduction of the painting. Gradually
both became allocated to an independent role. Starting from 1964 the aquarelle
became developed and from 1971 the painting became autonomous.
From 1970 onwards, Stan Baele exhibits his mature paintings also abroad: France,
Italy, Israel and the US. The paintings of the seventies show nature in full
development, like 'Growing Enigma' (1970) and 'The First Day' (1972). He is
looking for the essentials of life – the origin of the shapes and the rhythm of
growing – and he is being fascinated by Jungle archetypes as tree, well and
delta . The whole world is impregnated with a primitive wisdom. Not without
curiosity, but at the same time with the greatest respect for the secrets of the
world, Stan Baele tries to penetrate to the point of this primitive wisdom.
During his work, he lets himself be guided by the same wisdom which controls the
order of nature. In the silence of his spacious garden studio in Putte, the
creative urge and power of Stan Baele has become uncommonly intensive, 'Multi
Delta', 'Land- and Water Waves', 'Ripped Beeches' and 'Primitive Core' are some
of the titles of the always growing list of paintings. The mostly big sizes can
be seen as part of the biggest vision. Typical as well, is that many motifs look
to have been observed from the air, or indeed from a certain height. In an
occasionally hazy colour scheme, everything is impressive structural. In the
minds of many less gifted painters, the understanding of the cosmic has become
synonymous with the greatest humbug. This made Stan Baele suspicious against
this concept. His works from the next period, he titles as 'cosmic naturalism' (where
'cosmic' only acts as an adjective).
More than ever, he develops other techniques to be able to symbolize the things
that fascinate him. Due to his ink paintings, Stan Baele has been, more than
ever, empathizing with the animal world and was wrapped up in the mystery of it.
His drawings and paintings of animals are opening perspectives which we never
see with the conventional 'animalists'. He was also intensively occupied with
ink painting. He explains:' in particular, I make use of the Chinese- or
Japanese ink stone. The very deep black of these cubes, which are being rubbed
in the water until ink, gives me the opportunity to make the finest greys. I do
not want to call these Chinese- or Japanese ink paintings, although they do make
me think of them.'. That"s why we just call them ink paintings. In an infinite
scale of grey colours and tints, and on a appropriate belgian paper qualities,
Stan Baele has brought his own expression to his specific subjects, to his own
figurative language, cosmic – small-scale, grand on a small format. Most of the
paintings were directly put on paper with the paintbrush, without any preceding
pencil sketch, neither with any possibility for correction afterwards. The
specific greys with their endless variegation, show up best in the ink paintings
on Lana-paper. On this paper, recognizable for its chamois tint, you cannot work
with the pen. He did however pen- and ink paintings on white Steinbach paper .
The ink paintings gave Stan Baele the possibility to express an aspect, which he
could not raise with other techniques.
In the meantime, we also may not forget a new technique developed by Stan, the
pigment drawings. Neither pastel nor aquarelle, it consists of impregnation of
colour pigments in advance treated Ingres drawing paper of . On a pattern of
subtle bases, all treatments remain possible including the creation of white
patches by 100removal of the pigments already applied. Stan Baele calls this
very simply the 'new technique' as nobody had done this before. During the years
to follow, he expanded this approach and sensed the boundaries of it. The
fragility of tone often remind us of fragile porcelain . When antique images are
mainly stressed on a line, a recently shrouded figure looms like a vision. Or :
' the subtlety at its height'.
In 1981, he completed the great and significant painting 'The Triumph of the
Spirit', which he valued very much.
During the years after 1986, the year of his last active exhibition, he keeps on
creating works in all his familiar techniques : from Lavis-aquarelles (mono) 'Drinking
lions', 'Red deer', 'Ships ashore' and many others, chromo-aquarelles (colourful)
'Dream trees, Chinese pines, Autumn, etc', new technique (pigment drawings) 'Darwin,
'Einstein', 'Snow landscape', and a whole series about the 'Apocalypse', till
oil paintings like 'Nirvana', 'Sunken road',…. Also the death of his last and
also his best friend will result in a series of beautiful mournful paintings and
this in all techniques of expression.
A last exhibition in 1999 with the artist at the centre, introduced by Frans
Boenders, showed the oeuvre that Stan Baele had created during his last 15 years.
All those works are one by one pieces whereby the observer certainly becomes
quiet and starts listening speechless to the propulsion of the time.