Home » News » Koen Broucke, this Fleming from Wallonia: “More and more Flemings are discovering Walloon treasures, falling in love and buying a house”

Koen Broucke, this Fleming from Wallonia: “More and more Flemings are discovering Walloon treasures, falling in love and buying a house”

Born in Sint-Amandsberg in 1965, Koen Broucke is a highly acclaimed Flemish painter known for his eclectic style. With several of his works showcased in museums both in Belgium and abroad, Broucke’s talent has earned him popularity among art enthusiasts. nonetheless, his journey to becoming a successful painter was not a straightforward one. Broucke’s passion for music and history initially led him down different paths, but ultimately, he chose painting as his profession. In 2018, Broucke made a significant move to the village of Waulsort, seeking inspiration and a fresh perspective for his art. This decision was influenced by a literary pilgrimage he took to Miavoye, where he found out the charm and nostalgia of Waulsort. Settling in the picturesque village, Broucke found solace and a new sense of purpose in his surroundings. His love for the natural charm and tranquility of Waulsort became the driving force behind his creative process. In this article, we delve into Broucke’s life in Waulsort, his artistic journey, and his deep appreciation for the region of Wallonia.

Born in Sint-Amandsberg in 1965, Koen Broucke is one of the most popular Flemish painters today. Several of his works hang on the walls of museums in Belgium and abroad. This eclectic artist first learned the piano at the Academy of Borgerhout before taking history lessons at the VUB. He then took up painting, which he learned at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. At the start of the 1990s, this doctor of art sciences, occasional writer, lecturer and pianist wondered about his professional future. What to choose: history, music or painting? The choice is difficult because everything fascinates him. Finally, he opted for painting while continuing to play the piano and write.

In the footsteps of Paul Van Ostayen

Before settling in Waulsort in 2018, Koen Broucke started working in Boechout where he had a workshop in the middle of a large garden. But the artist has felt for several years now the need to recharge his batteries. He has the impression that time is slipping away from him and is looking for a new impetus allowing him to grow his desire to paint. In 2013, he left, with some friends, to make a literary pilgrimage to Miavoye, a hamlet located in the territory of the commune of Onhaye, not far from Dinant. It was there, in a now defunct sanatorium, that the Flemish poet Paul Van Ostayen, suffering from tuberculosis, breathed his last on March 18, 1928. The writer Koen Peeters, the poet Peter Holvoet-Hanssen and the journalist Pascal Verbeken, specialist in Wallonia, are part of the expedition. All share the same passion for the great modernist poet. During this journey, they stop in the village of Waulsort (municipality of Hastière), not far from Miavoye, which attracted many wealthy visitors during the Belle Époque. Koen Broucke immediately falls under the spell of this old posh village embodying the nostalgia of yesteryear.

Thomas Hertog, this Flemish in Wallonia: “We did not want to return to the fold, under a bell tower in Flemish country”

Villa des Roses

While strolling through the picturesque village of Waulsort, the painter fell in love with the Villa des Roses, an old and spacious house nestled in the greenery a stone’s throw from the Meuse. He ended up buying the house of his dreams and setting up his workshop there. It is therefore partly thanks to the Flemish poet Paul Van Ostayen, who died 95 years ago, that Koen Broucke settled down on the banks of the Meuse.

Thus begins for the versatile and curious artist a new life in this village not always easy to access. In Waulsort, in winter, time seems to freeze. Shops are closed and residents are reluctant to leave their homes. But, in the summer, the little town gets back on its feet: the Mosan landscape is idyllic. An exceptional place for Koen Broucke.

Healthy Hikes

The setting is, indeed, magnificent. The river, on the banks of which he does not hesitate to plant his easel, is a source of inspiration for the painter. Bucolic paths bordered by large gardens invite you to stroll. The old houses evoke a bygone era. The Villa des Roses is very popular with the artist who seeks above all silence, calm, slowness. He regularly leaves his studio to wander around. Walking is vital: it is the alpha and omega of his profession as a painter. “In Waulsort, I walk a lothe said. I feel the beneficial effects of nature. I can see and touch history. I like the contact with old stones, witnesses of a bygone era”.

The wide open spaces where you can stroll at will without meeting anyone, fascinate him. “Here, Wallonia has a head start compared to the more densely populated Flanders. Judge for yourself: there are 497 inhabitants per km² in Flanders and 217 inhabitants per km² in Wallonia. Not to mention the concreting, a real threat to the environment, which is much greater in Flanders than in Wallonia.”

”I see no reason to return to Flanders. We always felt very positive here”

Flanders does not miss him

Koen Broucke has always had a penchant for Wallonia, in particular for the Namur region which he knows well. The people of Antwerp love French-speaking art and culture. The painter is married to Sigrid, an Ostend woman. But his ex-wife, French-speaking, is from Ath in Hainaut. He feels really comfortable and rooted in Waulsort. “I have never felt more in my element than here. I appreciate the kindness of the neighbors, their friendliness. When I’m away, I entrust the keys to my house to neighbors who give water to my plants. I’m not the only Flemish here, there are others. More and more Flemings are discovering Walloon treasures, falling under the spell and ending up buying land, a house…”

Does he ever feel homesick for his native Flanders? “No. I have a lot of friends there, they come to visit me and I also go to their homes. I have a pied-à-terre and a workshop in Ostend, where I regularly spend very pleasant stays with my wife. Ostend suits me. The coastal town is in a way the counterpart in Flanders of Waulsort. It experienced glorious years in the time of Leopold II in the same way as Waulsort on the banks of the Meuse. Here, the bourgeoisie came to dine in sumptuous hotels in the early twentieth century: the village was a favorite destination for the financial and commercial elite of Antwerp and Brussels. Today, Waulsort has changed a lot. nonetheless, the village is popular today. Several houses have been acquired by people wishing to have a second residence. Or to operate a Bed&Breakfast there. Today, houses for sale in Waulsort quickly find a buyer.”

Flemings in solidarity with the Walloons

Koen Broucke now settled in Wallonia, does he claim his Flemish identity? “On my Wikipedia page, someone had written: “Koen Broucke, Flemish painter.” I changed “Flemish” to “Belgian”. I am bilingual, the Belgian identity suits me. “Flemish painter” seems to me too restrictive a definition. My activity goes far beyond our borders. We talk a lot about the Flemish or Walloon identity but I see that people don’t follow, it’s total indifference. Yes, the gap is widening between our communities, I regret it. But on the ground, solidarity has never been greater between Flemings and Walloons. Take the example of the 2020 floods. The number of Flemish people who came to help their fellow citizens on the other side of the linguistic border was impressive, wasn’t it?

“We can find nine Walloons who work diligently, but a single lazy person will be enough to confirm the prejudice. It’s toxic”

If I am optimistic for the future? “The extreme right especially in Flanders takes advantage of the situation, alas. He tries to recover disgruntled voters to restore his image. In the meantime, the real problems are not solved. Global warming is a planetary puzzle that demands our full attention. What will happen if a climatic disaster strikes Flanders as was the case in Wallonia three years ago during the floods?

Koen Broucke boasts of his regional roots. He is currently exhibiting at the museum of Bouvignes-sur-Meuse, Dinant’s eternal rival. He speaks French with his neighbors and participates in neighborhood life in his municipality. “Quite often I notice that restaurateurs in the area speak in Dutch to Dutch-speaking visitorscomments the artist. I have positive contacts with my neighbors in the street where I live. There are also some Flemings who live here. I have long conversations with residents of our street who walk, often with their dogs. During the pandemic, I noticed that many people made the walk to the small chapel at the end of the street to light a candle there.

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