Artistic Meditations on Beauty and Time
An interview with Belgian artist Pieter Wagemans
Hyper-realistic painter Pieter Wagemans has a passion for perfection. Combining classical techniques with a deep-seated fascination with the botanical world, the Belgian artist creates beautiful flower paintings that capture the sensory beauty of living blooms.
Wagemans’s realism oil painting compositions give everlasting life to primula flowers clustered in a wicker basket, to butter-yellow roses spilling out of an ornate silver box, and to red tulips that look as though they could be plucked out of a vase.
“In art, flowers have long been a symbol of aesthetics, friendship, love, decoration, and veneration—but also one of transience,” Wagemans says. “As a fine arts painter, it’s a real challenge to paint flowers with the same colours, boldness, and fine details that occur in nature.”
During the 1960s, when Wagemans was 15, he began his artistic studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp. A turning point in his education came when he saw an exhibition dedicated to 17th and 18th-century Dutch Masters, featuring the grand floral compositions of artists such as Jan Davidsz de Heem and Jan van Huysum.
“I was moved by the baroque compositions, the incredibly realistic renderings of flowers, and the overwhelming impression of nature displaying its treasures,” Wagemans says. “I wanted to study and emulate these techniques.”
A master in the making
Over the decades that followed, Wagemans followed the centuries-old methods of the Old Masters such as the alla prima (‘wet-on-wet’) painting technique, in which a composition is built up through layers of oil paint, each applied before the previous daubing has dried on the canvas.
“The difference between my paintings and those of the Old Masters is that my compositions are seasonally related; they mixed the flowers of different seasons together, such as tulips with roses,” Wagemans says. “As a hyper-realistic painter, I will never paint a flower from memory or fantasy.”