Frans Pieter Lodewijk van Kuyck (1852–1915), Marais au crépuscule (Marsh at Twilight)

Charles Hack donates collection of Belgian landscape paintings to 51's McMullen Museum

Charles Hack, a New York-based real estate investor and prominent art collector, has donated 36 outstanding landscape paintings by 23 artists, mostly members of the nineteenth-century Belgian School of Tervuren, to the McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College.

Hack is the owner of the Hearn Family Trust, which, among other areas of specialization, holds the largest private collection of Belgian art in America.

These important landscapes, which comprise the Charles Hack and the Hearn Family Trust Collection at the McMullen Museum, are now part of its permanent collection. With this donation, the McMullen Museum holds the foremost assemblage of Belgian landscapes in North America.

Hack was a major lender to the McMullen Museum’s acclaimed fall 2017 exhibition , curated by Boston College Professor Emeritus of Art History Jeffery Howe. That exhibition, and Hack’s involvement with its McMullen principals, inspired this gift.

painting of ships

Guillaume Vogels (1836–96); Barque à Trouville (Ship at Trouville)

“The McMullen is delighted to add to its permanent collection this landmark gift from Charles Hack of 36 outstanding paintings from Belgium’s School of Tervuren,” said Nancy Netzer, Inaugural Robert L. and Judith T. Winston Director of the McMullen Museum and Professor of Art History.

“The refined eye and discernment with which Hack selected these works makes this the premier collection of Belgian landscapes in North America. Originally researched and chosen by Jeffery Howe, an acclaimed scholar of Belgian art, for inclusion in the McMullen’s exhibition Nature’s Mirror, these paintings will now play a significant role in perpetuity in the research of our faculty and the education of both our students and the broader public.”

“I believe that the McMullen Museum is an ideal recipient and custodian for the entire collection of School of Tervuren landscape paintings,” Hack said of his gift. “From the moment that consideration had been given to mounting Nature’s Mirror, Director Nancy Netzer and Curator Jeffery Howe expressed unqualified admiration for the lesser-known School of Tervuren landscape paintings.”

Hack added that “the special quality in the treatment of light in these paintings sets the Tervuren school apart from the better-known Barbizon and Hague school paintings of that period. Besides adorning the walls of the McMullen for the public to enjoy, these paintings are to be actively used as teaching tools to benefit Boston College students.”

Most of the paintings are on display at the McMullen, throughout its atrium and offices, and are available for public viewing during Museum hours. 51 professors are also using the works for study in their classes, and they will be the subject of ongoing study and future exhibition and publication.

landscape of a river

Joseph Quinaux (1822–95), Rivière (River)

“Charles Hack has long been a champion of this art, and he has carefully and wisely assembled the foremost collection of modern Belgian art in private hands,” Howe said. “Boston College is fortunate to have been granted a portion of these treasures. This foundational gift will provide students, scholars, and art lovers with generations of pleasure and knowledge. In studying them, students will see how the development of modern art was a widespread international phenomenon with rich and diverse local traditions.”

According to Howe, the late nineteenth century was a revolutionary period of artistic and social change. Rejecting the centralizing tendencies of nineteenth-century urbanism, many artists turned their attention to local terrain as a statement of independence. 

“The development of modernism was harnessed to the simultaneous focus on nature. Science and art came together to explore light, color, and ecology. Although less known in the United States, these Tervuren school paintings are of the highest quality and stem from the rich tradition of art in Belgium, the country where oil painting was invented and perfected,” he added.

“The ‘School of Tervuren’ is a handy, if imprecise, name for Belgian landscape artists who sought beauty in nature as a counterpoint to the industrialization that was transforming European cities,” Howe explained, as there was no formal organization of artists associated with it. “Belgium was famed for its coal, steel, and railroad industries. These artists shared a common goal with other groups that emphasized landscape, such as those in the Barbizon region and the Hudson River Valley. The new emphasis on landscape reflected a shift from academic subjects to individual perceptions of nature, executed with innovative styles.”

painting of a chateau

Théodore T’Scharner (1826–1906), Le Château d’Eysden

The School of Tervuren artists painted in the forests and fields of a small village just east of Brussels. Influenced by the artists of the French Barbizon school, especially Jean-François Millet and Gustave Courbet, they devoted themselves to quiet scenes of the Belgian countryside. By 1863 they established a small artist colony in Tervuren, and shared a Romantic response to the region and to nature, and a commitment to a realist approach that faithfully records natural phenomena in a modern style. They viewed nature as offering an escape from the industrialization, burdens, and dizzying spectacle of the modern city.

The School of Tervuren artists painted in the forests and fields of a small village just east of Brussels. Influenced by the artists of the French Barbizon school, especially Jean-François Millet and Gustave Courbet, they devoted themselves to quiet scenes of the Belgian countryside. By 1863 they established a small artist colony in Tervuren, and shared a Romantic response to the region and to nature, and a commitment to a realist approach that faithfully records natural phenomena in a modern style. They viewed nature as offering an escape from the industrialization, burdens, and dizzying spectacle of the modern city.

Artists represented in the Charles Hack and the Hearn Family Trust Collection include  Frans Binjé (1835–1900); François Bossuet (1798–1889); Hippolyte Boulenger (1837–74); Henri de Braekeleer (1840–88); Joseph-Théodore Coosemans (1828–1904); Louis-Joseph-Désiré Crépin (1828–87); William Degouve de Nuncques (1867–1935); Jean-Baptiste Degreef (1852–1894); Louis Dubois (1830–80); Alfred William Finch (1854–1930); Théodore Fourmois (1814–71); Léon-Henri-Marie Frédéric (1856–1940); Frans Pieter Lodewijk van Kuyck (1852–1915); Jean Pierre François Lamorinière (1828–1911); Frans van Leemputten (1850–1914); Charles Mertens (1865–1919); Isidore Meyers (1836–1917); Joseph Quinaux (1822–95); Théodore T’Scharner (1826–1906); Victor Uytterschaut (1847–1917); Théodore Verstraete (1850–1907); Guillaume Vogels (1836–96); Camille Wauters (1856–1919).

A to the Charles Hack and the Hearn Family Trust Collection contains labels on the 36 paintings—33 oils and three watercolors—written by Howe.