Rik Wouters

Mechelen 1882 – 1916 Amsterdam

Rik Wouters is one of the favorites of the art public. There was appreciation among colleagues, critics and collectors in the last years of his life. And after the artist's premature death, popularity grew rapidly. The two most important art museums of our country, in Brussels and Antwerp, immediately started to build impressive collections of Wouters. The one from the Royal Museum of Fine Arts in Antwerp was enriched with donations and now consists of 26 paintings on canvas and cardboard, 19 bronze and plaster sculptures (of which “Het zotte geweld" and “Huiselijke zorgen" are permanently on display in the Middelheim open-air museum) and 66 work on paper.

In Mechelen on 21 August 1882 Rik Wouters was born, as a son of a logger in one of the many furniture factories in the Dijlestad. At the age of twelve, Rik is expelled from school and works as a "sculpteur" in the studio of father Emile Wouters. With the encouragement
of Theo Blickx, he makes the move to artistic sculpture. He attends classes at Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels and Mechelen.

Hélène or Nel Duerinckx tells in her "memoirs" how she seduces the young academy student at the age of sixteen. Rik and Nel get married in 1905 and for the next five years they live in Bosvoorde on the edge of the Sonian Forest. Rik draws, paints, etches and models sculptures both in plaster and in bronze. In 1911 his work was exhibited at the salon of La Libre Esthétique in Brussels, at that time one of the leading exhibition in Belgian. In 1912 he signed a contract with Georges Giroux, an important art dealer.

In 1914 Rik had to go under the arms to defend Belgium against the invading German army. His company flees to the Netherlands. After a few months of prisoner of war camp Rik and Nel went to Amsterdam. There one discovers the cause of his years of stabbing headache: cancer of the upper jawbone. Operations are mutilating but do not bring healing. Rik Wouters dies at the age of 33, on the eve of his exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum.

The art of Rik Wouters is a fauvistic declaration of love to the woman of his life: Nel. They lived poorly but happily, until the promising artist died in 1916 in Amsterdam of cancer.