Born in Antwerp, Belgium on June 24 1923.
Died in Putte Kapellen, Belgium on August 27 2001.
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.
ROYAL ACADEMY and HIGH INSTITUTE of FINE ARTS, ANTWERP
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 Dorekens).
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 evolution.
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 nature.
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.