Constant Permeke

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Constant Permeke (1886-1952) by Frits Van den Berghe, Felixarchief

Constant Permeke (born July 31, 1886 in Antwerp , † January 4, 1952 in Ostend ) was a Belgian painter, draftsman and sculptor . He is considered one of the most important representatives of Flemish Expressionism . His work focuses on the representation of the North Sea, the Flanders region ; they often show fishermen and farmers. The use of earthy colors is characteristic of his paintings. Permeke belonged with Gust (aaf) De Smet , Leon De Smet and Frits Van den Berghe to the second group of artists of Laethem .



The Constant Permeke Museum in Jabbeke

Constant Permeke was the son of the painter Henri Louis Permeke (* 1849 in Poperinge, † 1912 in Ostend). The family boarded their ship "Artis Armor" in Antwerp in 1891 and finally reached Ostend in 1892, where they settled. His father worked there from 1897 as the first restorer of the municipal art museum. He is also mentioned variously as the founder of the museum. The father maintained close contact with the Ostend artist James Ensor (1860–1949), the '' painter of masks ''. From 1903 to 1906 Permeke studied at the Art Academy in Bruges . In 1906 he went to Ghent to do his military service. There he also enrolled at the art academy in Ghent and studied with Jean Delvin (1853–1922). At the academy he met Gust De Smet, whom he knew from the military, and got to know Leon De Smet and Frits Van den Berghe. In 1908 he returned to Ostend. Gust De Smet also went to Ostend; they shared a room on Kaistraat for painting. In 1909 he met the painter Albert Servaes , who is considered the father of Flemish Expressionism, in Sint-Martens-Latem, now known as the “artists' village” . His work impressed him deeply. Permeke belonged to the second early Expressionist group of the Sint-Martens-Latem school. In Sint-Martens-Latem he also met his future wife Maria Delaere, his "Marietje". She came from Poperinge, the birthplace of his father. He stayed in Sint-Martens-Latem until 1912, but then returned to Ostend, where he belonged to the circle of James Ensor and Leon Spilliaert .

1912 to 1940

On June 27, 1912 he married Marietje. The couple lived in the Ostend district of the lighthouse, the “Vuurtorenwijk”, in the middle of hard-working fishing families. After the beginning of the First World War he was drafted into the military and used in the defense of Antwerp. He was badly wounded in a battle near Duffel. He was brought to the UK and nursed in a hospital in South Hillwood, Kent. In 1916 he settled in Chardstock ( Devonshire ). Although he was still suffering from his injuries, he began to paint again. After his recovery, he lived with his wife and mother in Folkestone , where their first son John was born. In April 1919, the family returned to their house near the lighthouse in Ostend with their three children, John, Paul and Thérèse. Exhibitions in the Brussels galleries “Sélection” and “Le Centaure” as well as in Antwerp marked the final breakthrough for Flemish Expressionism and Permeke. From 1926 he spent the summer months in the small town of Jabbeke between Ostend and Bruges . The architect Pierre Vandevoort designed the house “De Vier Winden” (The Four Winds), which he moved into in 1930. He got international fame through his participation in the Venice Biennale in 1934. From 1937 he also worked as a sculptor.

Memorial plaque for Constant Permeke in Oostende, Langestraat 116 (apartment from 1921 to 1925).

1940 to 1952

The years 1940 to 1944 during World War II were both human and artistic for Permeke. He was forbidden to paint under German occupation; Flemish Expressionism was ostracized as "degenerate". His son Paul was captured; According to other accounts, he was abducted by the Germans. Permeke moved bitterly to Brussels. After the end of the war, he was appointed director of a national higher institute of the Royal Academy in Antwerp in December 1945, Permeke regained his courage to face life. However, he only held the post of director for one year. In 1950 Permeke received the Graf Volpi Prize together with Max Beckmann at the 25th Venice Biennale; it was the first time in his life that he accepted an award.

Permeke reached the high point of his artistic career with a retrospective in Paris from 1947 to 1948. It was overshadowed by the death of his wife on May 3, 1948. His health deteriorated increasingly; his daughter Thérèse looked after him. In 1951, in hopes of recovery, he traveled to Brittany for ten days, but from November 1951 he was bedridden. He died in Ostend on January 4, 1952 and was buried next to his wife four days later.

The grave of Constant Permeke and his wife Maria ("Marietje") in the cemetery at the church of Jabbeke with a grave sculpture by George Minne.


On the 100th birthday of Permekes, the Ostend Art Museum PMMK was opened in 1986 with an extensive retrospective of Permeke's works. His work is represented in private collections and in numerous museums, such as the Royal Museums of Fine Arts in Brussels , the PMMK in Ostend and museums in Grenoble, Paris and Prague.

In 1964, his works were shown at the documenta III in Kassel in the famous hand drawings department .

Today, his works achieve considerable prices at auctions. So moved in 2003 at an auction by Sotheby's in Amsterdam to be held in dark colors oil painting "rowers on the river Scheldt" in 1921 for 265,000 euros, ten times the tax, the owner.

In 1997, the Belgian state recognized the importance of Permekes with the depiction of his portrait on the Belgian thousand-franc note of the time.

His house and studio in Jabbeke was converted into a museum (PMCP - Provinciaal Museum Constant Permeke) in 1959. The museum's collection includes more than 150 works by Permekes, including 80 paintings. There are also paintings on display by his father Henri-Louis Permeke, his son-in-law Pierre Devos (1917–1972) and his friends Frits Van den Berghe, Oscar Jespers (1887–1970) and Henri Puvrez.


  • Willy van den Bussche: Constant Permeke 1886-1952 . Exhibition catalog, Kunstverein Hannover, Museum Fund Brussels, 1987.
  • Willy van den Bussche, John Sillevis (2004): Constant Permeke . Exhibition catalog, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, Waanders, Zwolle, 2004, ISBN 90-400-8999-X . (Dutch.)

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