Philippe Vandenberg
Philippe Vandenberg in his studio, Stokerijstraat, Ghent (photo Émile Luider, Gent, 1987/1988)

  Philippe Vandenberg was born in Ghent in 1952. It is in the Museum of Fine Arts of his native city that his encounter with work by Bosch and Gustave Van de Woestijne sparks off his fascination with painting. In 1972 when he decides to devote himself full-time to the study of painting and in 1976 he graduates with a degree from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Ghent.
Text and image have grown intimately entwined in Philippe Vandenberg's oeuvre.
On the occasion of his 1999 retrospective exhibition in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Antwerp, he writes On his way in a cage is a man, his hands red, an interim reflection on his oeuvre. In 2004 Ergo Pers published Painter's Exile in a bibliophile edition with the Letter to the Nigger text and 64 etchings, in a graphic design by Rein Ergo.

Philippe Vandenberg, Henrie Hemelsoet, etching proof print for 'Exil de peintre', Ergo Pers, 2003



Exil de peintre, an artists' book with 64 etchings and a text by Belgian artist Philippe Vandenberg. Exil de peintre, is published in a limited edition of 33 copies.
Each book includes two volumes : a firtst volume with 53 etchings an an additional second volume with a suite of 11 echings, signed and numbered by Philippe Vandenberg.
Each book is signed by the artist in the colophon.

The etchings were done directly by the artist at the studio of Henrie Hemelsoet in Ghent.
Techniques used include softground etching, hardground etching, whiteground aquatint, sugar lift aquatint and others.
The entire edition is printed on Hahnemühle 150 g. Size 28 x 36 cms.
Exil de peintre wass a realisation of Philippe Vandenberg, Henrie Hemelsoet and Rein Ergo.

On the left: Philippe Vandenberg, Henrie Hemelsoet, etching proof print for 'Exil de peintre', Ergo Pers, 2003



Philippe Vandenberg and Mario De Brabandere,



Philippe Vandenberg 80's



I' was a painter as I was a child, for a long time.
For lack of a mother tongue, I took up painting to formulate life’s questions and demands.
But once the questions were asked, once the demands were expressed, where to find the answers?
And I became a painter of bottlenecks. A painter of exile. A painter of great crucifixions of bottlenecks within the canvas, lacerating the skin of the beautiful painting. Am I still innocent?'

Philippe Vandenberg, Letter to the nigger, 2004


Letter to the Nigger, published in Philippe Vandenberg “L’important c’est le kamikaze”: Œuvre 2000-2006, 143-151. Charleville-Mézières: Musée Arthur Rimbaud; Ghent: On-Line, 2006.Philippe Vandenberg, Brief aan de neger, vertaald uit het Frans door Joost Beerten
Philippe Vandenberg, La lettre au nègre, dans Exil de peintre, Ergo Pers, Gand, 2003.



Left: Philippe Vandenberg and Mario De Brabandere, No title, 2004
Main d'oeuvre, Roger Raveelmuseum 2015

Philippe Vandenberg in his studio in the 80's in Ghent (Hofstraat) [1].




Selection of exhibitions


    Philippe Vandenberg & Berlinde De Bruyckere | Innocence is precisely: never to avoid the worst
Museum De Pont | 30 June - 28 October 2012





‘Innocence is precisely: never to avoid the worst.’
This final sentence of Lettre au nègre, written in 2003 by Belgian artist Philippe Vandenberg (1952-2009), has become the title of an exhibition where Berlinde De Bruyckere °(1964) engages in a dialogue with the work of this artist for whom she has great respect. In a carefully considered presentation she shows a personal selection of Vandenberg’s paintings and drawings, in combination with her own watercolors and several sculptures that have not been exhibited in Europe before.

Berlinde De Bruyckere hardly needs to be introduced as an artist. At De Pont her impressive figures in wax, appearing in two large vitrines, are a permanent part of the collection on display. The paintings and drawings of her fellow countryman Philippe Vandenberg are less known in the Netherlands.
To Vandenberg art and life were one. This outlook determined both the strength and the dramatic quality of all his work. By the time Vandenberg finished art school in Ghent, in 1976, he was already considered a highly talented artist. In 1981 he received the Prix de la Jeune Peinture Belge, and soon after this he would be among Belgium’s most successful painters. Vandenberg was an artist who sought the connection between mind and soul. In his paintings he expressed the human condition, often referring to his political, philosophical and literary concerns. Painting was his means of coming to terms with life – with his own complex personality, with the absurdity of the world around him and with the art world, by which he was both celebrated and dismissed.
Having made a virtuoso debut, he then renounced y display of skill. His work became, especially after 1996, increasingly austere. Vandenberg’s development is characterized by creative ruptures in which he alternated between painting figuratively and abstractly. From the mid 1990s onward, drawing began to assume increasing significance in his work. While his paintings are often searching and obdurate, thousands of his pencil drawings make up a continuum of associative, occasionally cartoonish images, in which fears and obsessions are warded off. There are also works in which language becomes image; sometimes he achieves this with a single word, other times with invoking statements. Time and again, Vandenberg questioned form and content, trying to fathom his own depths and to understand why painting was such an adventure to him. Taking risks and exposing oneself to them were the consequence of his perspective on life as an artist. In June 2009 this ended with his suicide.

Over the past year, Berlinde De Bruyckere has looked at the thousands of drawings in his studio. ‘I often discerned a part of myself in them; Philippe Vandenberg is a soulmate,’ she writes in the book in which she combines four related series of pencil drawings by Vandenberg with her own watercolors. That affinity is primarily expressed in the subject matter. Both artists deal with existential themes: with suffering, with physical and emotional pain, loneliness and vulnerability. They also share a fondness for the old masters and a familiarity with the religious visual tradition. Christian motifs such as the Cross, the Pietà and the crown of thorns take on new levels of meaning in their work
[Source: press release Museum De Pont 2012]

°Berlinde De Bruyckere (1964, Ghent, Belgium) lives and in Gent, Belgium.
She specialises in sculpture in various media including wax, wood, wool, horse skin and hair, though she also works in watercolour, gouache, and since the early 1990s many of her major works have featured structures involving blankets. Their use is symbolic both of warmth and shelter, and of the vulnerable circumstances such as wars that make people seek such shelter. De Bruyckere began making work around ideas of the human figure in the early 1990s, first through its absence, stacking and draping woollen blankets on furniture, symbolising shelter and vulnerability. Then she added bodies made of wax, almost completely covered in wool; imperfect, sexless and headless.



‘I am an artist of emotion and reflections. I don’t mean sentimentalism, the emotional, but the shock of the emotion that triggers, as it were, the reflection. Only the reflection creates space.’ – Philippe Vandenberg (1952 – 2009)


Philippe Vandenberg, Exil de peintre en Débris, in Main d'oeuvre, 20 jaar Ergo Pers

Philippe Vandenberg, Exil de peintre, 1998-2003, oil on canvas, 200 x 300 cm and Roger Raveel, Huiselijkheid, 1958,
in Main d'oeuvre, 20 years Ergo Pers, Roger Raveelmuseum 2015



Main d’œuvre – 20 years Ergo Pers

Philippe Vandenberg, Exil de peintre and  Débris, in Main d'oeuvre, 20 jyears Ergo Pers


Writers and visual artists have been brought together by publishing house Ergo Pers for twenty years now, with a special goal in mind: creating artists' books that are autonomous works of art at the same time. These luxurious publications, with beautiful typography and original illustrations by modern artists, are the focus of this autumn in the Berlage cabinet of the Gemeentemuseum The Hague. In Main d'œuvre – 20 years of Ergo Pers they are shown in relation to original graphics by Constant, Armando, Philiope Vandenberg, Jürgen Partenheimer and Pierre Alechinsky, among others.
In addition to the artist's book Exil de Peintre, there are several monumental paintings by Philippe Vandenberg on view, and a series of drawings that he made together with Mario De Brabandere.

Gemeentemuseum (Kunstmuseum) Den Haag
03 October 2015 till 03 January 2016

Main d’œuvre | 20 jaar Ergo Pers in het Roger Raveelmuseum
Main d’œuvre | 20 jaar Ergo Pers in het Haags Gemeentemuseum



Philippe Vandenberg. Molenbeek, Paleis voor Schone Kunsten, Bozar, Brussel


Philippe Vandenberg, Molenbeek. The late drawings of Philippe Vandenberg, Bozar 2020

Philippe Vandenberg, Molenbeek. The late drawings of Philippe Vandenberg, Bozar 2020 © Ergo Pers


'We'll kick your ass out of St. John's Millbrook', Philippe Vandenberg,  Molenbeek, Bozar 2020
Philippe Vandenberg, Molenbeek,
Bozar 2020, We'll kick your ass
out of St. John's Millbrook

© Ergo Pers


Philippe Vandenberg. Molenbeek

The exhibition Philippe Vandenberg. Molenbeek is the first solo exhibition of the late works on paper by Philippe Vandenberg (1952-2009) since he committed suicide in 2009.
The exhibition consists of large and small observations on paper about the last years of Philippe Vandenberg, which he spent in Molenbeek. The exhibition shows him as a committed artist who saw his beloved Molenbeek as a platform for world problems.

Molenbeek is the first solo exhibition on the late works on paper by Philippe Vandenberg (1952-2009), after earlier, fragmentary presentations in Museum De Pont (Tilburg) and MSK Ghent.

Philippe Vandenberg, Molenbeek
BOZAR/Centre for Fine Arts
Rue Ravenstein 23 1000 BRUSSELS




Philippe Vandenberg. Molenbeek, De schriftuur van het schrijven (detail), Bozar, 2020 Philippe Vandenberg,  Molenbeek. De schriftuur van het schrijven, Bozar, 2020 Art as a way of life | Philippe Vandenberg. Molenbeek, Bozar, 2020 Philippe Vandenberg, Each man kills the thing he loves, Philippe Vandenberg. Molenbeek, Bozar, 2020 Philippe Vandenberg, Molenbeek, Bozar, 2020. Une de ces installations prend la forme d’un svastika, un symbole qui rappelle son opposé symétrique, la croix nazie

Philippe Vandenberg, Molenbeek. The late drawings of Philippe Vandenberg, Bozar 2020 © Ergo Pers



'The texts are sometimes like wishes, incantations or formulations of a prayer. They do not always register the reality. It’s not as though I can forget everything by simply expressing the desire in writing. The word is also a form. You can paint and draw a word or phrase in the same manner that you would a flowerpot, nude, or landscape. You can also use the word as a motif with a meaning. It is duplicate information. These are not words that are thrown haphazardly onto the paper; they are drawn in a very particular way. The pastel drawings are classic: they have no narrative motif; I draw and treat the text as I would draw a scene.'




You can  take a virtual dive via our 3D scans.

Learn more about Philippe Vandenberg’s Molenbeek years

Watch Philippe Vandenberg working in his studio in Ghent






Drawings of a Painter, Julien Vandevelde (2001)

'Drawing is my salvation'


    'As long as I was drawing or painting, I felt protected in a sense from the outside world -- protected too from the demons. It's very strange because from a young age -- around four or five -- I used the exorcism of drawing to shut myself away within a picture that on the one hand was seeking some kind of contact with the outside world, but on the other hand was also protecting myself.'

Philippe Vandenberg



Drawings of a Painter, Julien Vandevelde (2004)

Drawings of a Painter is a fragment of the documentary Een schilder is als Œdipus onderweg (A Painter Is as Œdipus on the Road) by filmmaker Julien Vandevelde. From 1999 onwards, on the occasion of his retrospective exhibition at M HKA (Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen), until 2004, Vandevelde captured the artist working and reflecting in his studio. In this fragment, shot in his studio in the Stokerijstraat in Ghent, Vandenberg elaborates on the significance of the drawing within his œuvre and for him as a person.

Director Julien Vandevelde
Production Cavalier Seul
Color, NL





[1] Foto van Michiel Hendryckx, gepubliceerd onder een licentie  Creative Commons Attribuzione-Condividi allo stesso modo 4.0 Internazionale.
[2] Emile Luider was born in 1959 in Ridderkerk, Holland.
He studied Fine Arts in Breda and started working for the KLM and Sabena magazines. This picture was published in a Sabena magazine.
[3] Het onbewaakte moment: de gecontroleerde ongecontroleerdheid bij het tekenen. Ronny Delrue in gesprek met Luc Tuymans, Annie-Mie Van Kerckhoven, Roger Raveel, Katleen Vermeir, Kris Fierens en Philippe Vandenberg (Brussels: Mercatorfonds, 2011), 230–79. Translated by Helen Simpson.










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