Oscar Jespers & Léon Spilliaert – Ostende années 20
1887 (22nd May) Oscar Jespers is born in Borgerhout (Anvers). He is the second child of the sculptor Emile Jespers and Catharina Verelst. Two years later his brother, Floris, is born, who will become a famous painter.
1900 Having learnt the basics of sculpture in his father’s workshop, he visits the Anvers Academy of Fine Arts where he is the pupil of Josué Dupon and Frans Deckers. He also learns to play the violin.
1908 He continues to receive lessons from Thomas Vinçotte at the l'Institut supérieur des Beaux-Arts d'Anvers for three years.
1911 Oscar Jespers has his own workshop at the address Begijnevest 39.
1914 Oscar and Floris Jespers meet Paul van Ostaijen, the Flemish poet and activist. When the war breaks out, the family is separated: some take refuge in France, the others (including Oscar) head for the Netherlands. They briefly settle with the painter Evert Pieters whom they met at the Anvers Academy. Oscar exhibits some of his works during the ‘Second Salon Belge’ in The Hague.
1916 Oscar Jespers marries Mia Carpenter who works at the department store ‘Innovation’. Paul van Ostaijen publishes his first article about the Jespers brothers’ work in the magazine Het Tonneel.
1917 Oscar and Floris Jespers display a series of pieces at the Koninklijk Kunstverbond exhibition at Anvers (17th-27th February). Oscar Jespers displays 12 sculptures, 22 drawings and a watercolour which catch the attention of critics. The exhibition is put on again at the Giroux Gallery in Brussels.
1918 The death of Emile Jespers. Paul van Ostaijen continues to support the work of his friends, this time in De Stroom.
1920 New participation at a group exhibition organised by ‘Sélection’ at Koninklijk Kunstverbond in Anvers. After a few days and ahead of a public reception, Oscar withdraws his works. In September, Oscar and Mia Jespers go to Berlin to visit Paul van Ostaijen. The sculptor and poet finalise two collaborations: the first a magazine project and the second concerning Bezette stad.
1921 Oscar Jespers displays 11 sculptures at the exhibition organised by Kunst van Heden (7th – 29th May) in Anvers.
1922 The birth of his daughter, Hella. The young girl would later die at the age of five.
1923 Oscar Jespers receives his first official commission, proposed by the Minister of the Colonies - an African statue intended for the Tervuren Museum. Despite his bad experience in 1920, Oscar Jespers joins the group ‘Sélection’.
1924 The sculptor becomes an affiliated artist of the group Kunst van Heden.
1925 Individual exhibition at ‘Galerie Le Centaure’ in Brussels. Oscar Jespers is appointed Knight of the Order of the Crown.
1926 Oscar Jespers displays 8 sculptures at the exhibition Les 9. Each exhibiting artist is supported by a patron who in Jespers’ case is Max Gevers, a stockbroker with a keen interest in the art world.
1927 Henri van de Velde, president of l’Institut supérieur des Arts décoratifs (‘La Cambre’), asks Oscar Jespers to take care of the teaching of decorative and monumental sculpture there. The Jespers family moves into 641, Chaussée de Wavre, in Etterbeek. The move damages some of his works and causes Oscar Jespers to lose his correspondence with Bezette stad as well as the wood used in the printing of the publication.
1928 ‘Galerie Le Centaure’ organises a joint Oscar Jespers - Constant Permeke exhibition, L’Art belge depuis l’impressionnisme at the Jeu de Paume Museum, which displays 4 sculptures by Oscar Jespers. The year also marks the death of Paul van Ostaijen at a sanatorium in the Namur province.
1929 Wassily Kandinsky visits. Oscar Jespers and his wife move into their house at 149 Avenue du Prince Héritier (the architect is Victor Bourgeois). The birth of their son Paul (30th September).
1931 Four of Jespers’ sculptures appear at the exhibition titled L’art vivant en Europe, organised at the Brussels Cente of Fine Arts. As well as the Jespers brothers’ works, it displays those of Gustave De Smet, Frits van den Berghe, Albert Servaes, Edgard Tijtgat, Hyppolyte Daeye, Henri Puvrez, Ramah, Willem Paereels and Jean Brusselmans. Jespers also participates at exhibitions in Amsterdam (Stedelijk Museum) and in Zurich (Kunsthaus).
1933 Along with 24 other Belgian artists, Oscar Jespers takes part in an exhibition organized by Kunst van Heden, put on in Winterthur, Bâle and Zurich.
1934 Exhibition in Anvers proposed by Kunst van Heden (5th May – 3rd June) displaying 34 pieces by the artist. Group exhibition in Stockholm, Malmö and Oslo.
1935 The Minister of Economic Affairs commissions Oscar Jespers to make Carte de la Belgique. The 4m by 12m bas-relief, whose current location is unknown, is presented at the Brussels World Exhibition in the Gare Modèle (whose architect was Victor Bourgeois). Appointment as Knight of the Order of Léopold.
1937 The Minister of Economic Affairs commissions Oscar Jespers to make a work titled La Belgique au travail. The 6m by 6m bas-relief is presented at the ‘Pavillon belge’ at the Paris World Exhibition. It is today located in Middleheim in Anvers.
1938 The artist is appointed Knight of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus by the Italian government.
1939 Oscar Jespers creates a new version of La Belgique au travail with the help of his friend Henri Puvrez. The 3m by 15m work in terracotta adorns the façade of the ‘Pavillon belge’ at the New York World Exhibition. It is today kept at Virginia Union University in Richmond. Appointment as Knight of the Legion of Honour.
1941 Appointment as a member of the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science, Literature and Fine Arts.
1947 The artist becomes a member of the Advisory Committee for sculpture at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium.
1948 Appointment as Officer of the Order of Leopold.
1949 He becomes a sculpture teacher at the Jan Van Eyck Academy in Maastricht.
1951 Oscar Jespers participates in São Paulo’s first Modern Art Biennial.
1952 Ten of Jespers’ works are displayed at the exhibition on Belgian expressionism at the Brussels Cente of Fine Arts. The artist retires from his teaching post at the l’Institut Supérieur des Arts décoratifs (‘La Cambre’).
1954 Retrospective exhibition of his works at the Brussels Cente of Fine Arts. Jespers is appointed president of the Advisory Committee for sculpture at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium and becomes Commander of the Order of Leopold.
1956 Exhibitions paying homage to his work at Belgisches Haus in Cologne and in Anvers in a venue on Meir. Oscar Jespers retires from his teaching post at the Jan Van Eyck Academy in Maastricht.
1958 Oscar Jespers becomes Grand Officer of the Order of Leopold.
1960 He represents Belgium in Venice at the 30th Biennial and receives the quinquennial prize for sculpture awarded by the Belgian State.
1961 Two individual exhibitions in America (in New York and Boston) are dedicated to him. At this time, he teaches for three months at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
1964 Several exhibitions aiming to raise awareness of his works (sculptures and drawings) are organised in the Netherlands, taking place in Utrecht, Nimègue, Bois-le-Duc and Heerlen. The death of Mrs. Jespers.
1965 Exhibition at Alost
1966 Exhibitions at the Mons Museum of Fine Arts and at the Ixelles Museum of Fine Arts.
1968 Group exhibition at Mücsarnok in Bucharest.
1970 Exhibition at the De Vuyst Gallery in Lokeren where 35 of Jespers’ sculptures and 70 of his drawings are displayed. Oscar Jespers dies on the 1st December at his home in Woluwe-Saint-Lambert. He is buried at the Etterbeek cemetery (Wezembeek-Oppem) alongside his wife and young daughter in the vault on which the sculpture Teddybear sits.
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