Picturesque Sketches: after Léon Becker. 2014
A motorway underpass mural in Genk, Belgium inspired by the illustrations of the 19th century landscape painter and arachnologist Léon Becker (see below). Becker painted the area around Genk and also illustrated a book on spiders and children's books on science. Using Becker's illustrations in collage form the murals refer to the immediate natural environment and the importance of preserving the ecological balance of Genk – a once beautiful, unique and remote landscape that attracted many Belgian landscape painters that was completely devestated by coal mining. It also refers to the human ecology of the area and recent protests with the closing of the large Ford car plant. The mural has not been sponsored in anyway by Ford and is more of a critical comment on the social impact of such a factory closure.
The dilapidated motorway underpass acted as a physical barrier between the Heempark, a public garden and education centre and the Kattevennen national park. The idea of the mural is to connect these two spaces and make it easier for the public to access both sites from each other. A special pathway was also designed to facilitate easier access. Part of the proposal was to create two new playgrounds nearby with the mural underpass as a connecting pathway between the two – unfortunately the playgrounds were never realised.
The study of Belgian spiders began at the end of the 19th century with the very creditable work of Léon Becker (1826-1909). As a landscape painter and arachnologist, Becker collected spiders from all over the country, and published his distribution data in four luxuriously published volumes entitled ‘Les Arachnides de Belgique’ (BECKER, 1882, 1896). Especially the two large volumes with lithographed images are extremely fine examples of the art of scientific illustration of that period. Léon Becker also illustrated children’s books, in which Nils Norman found the inspiration for his artwork. Becker also was a regular visitor of Genk, not only for scientific field research but also as an artist. His work is also represented in the collection of the Emile Van Doren Museum.
The mural was painted by Eddie Vanhoef
Photos courtesy of Eddie Vanhoef