Flanders is situated on the crossroads of 3 cultures: German, Roman and Anglo-Saxon. This makes Flemish people very open to influences from abroad, be they cultural, culinary, social or professional. Generally, Flemings are described as rather modest, but recent history shows that they are actually progressive people with an open view on the world. For instance, almost every Fleming speaks at least one other language, which simplifies contacts with people from other cultures.
Early Netherlandish painting, epitomised by the works of the Van Eyck brothers, Dirk Bouts, Rogier van der Weyden, Hans Memling and Jeroen Bosch, hang in the world’s foremost museums. During the sixteenth and seventeenth century, the brilliant Pieter Bruegel, Pieter Paul Rubens and Antoon Van Dyck were the main propagators of the Flemish visual culture, which clearly interfaced domestic traditions and European perspectives. Flanders produced some great artists in the twentieth century too, including James Ensor, Constant Permeke and Frits Van den Berghe. Contemporary painters of which the region can be proud include Roger Raveel, Octave Landuyt and Luc Tuymans. Both performing artist and sculptor Jan Fabre and artist-designer Panamarenko regularly produce provocative or ingenious works of art.
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker has put contemporary choreography on the map with her dance company Rosas. Other prominent dance figures are Wim Vandekeybus and Alain Platel.
picture, © P.A.R.T.S., Performing Arts Research and Training Studios
Flemish fashion designers are known throughout the world. Well known fashion artists are: Walter Van Beirendonck, Ann Demeulemeester, Dries van Noten, Dirk Van Saene, Dirk Bikkembergs, Martin Margiela, Raf Simons and Veronique Branquinho.
Classical music is popular in Flanders. The Flemish polyphonists included Josquin des Prez, at the time the Michelangelo of music, and Orlandus Lassus. The Queen Elisabeth Music Competition is felt to be one of the most prestigious and toughest there is. Competition disciplines are violin (since 1951), piano (since 1952), composition (since 1953) and singing (since 1988). It is named after Elisabeth I of Belgium (1876-1965).
Numerous Flemish top class musicians have graced the jazz scene.
The number of Flemish bands and singers attracting large crowds abroad has continued to increase in recent years.
Flemish literature boasts many fascinating authors, including Hugo Claus, Louis Paul Boon and Herman De Coninck , the most celebrated post-war writers in Flanders, while the contemporary scene is peopled by such poets as Leonard Nolens, essayists like Geert Van Istendael, prose writers such as Jef Geeraerts, Kristien Hemmerechts, Erwin Mortier, Tom Lanoy, and Dimitri Verhulst.