GRATIE (ERNEST WIJNANTS)
A little further on, just past the corner with the Dr. Verdurmenstraat and further on past the crossing with the Regentiestraat we are greeted by two consecutive sculptures of Ernest Wijnants. They both tell their own story.
‘Bacchante’: this standing figure in bronze dates from 1928 and was purchased in 1931 by the Koninklijke Musea voor Schone Kunsten van België (Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium) and is also on show there. Especially in the hairstyle one recognises the woodcarver’s hand applying small decorations and details, as if handling the chisel.
‘Gratie’: just as ‘Bacchante’ this sculpture from 1917 in the characteristic art-deco style is recognisable by the hairstyle and the decorations. It is part of the group of sculptures ‘Three Graces’, the break-through work for Wijnants. In this group of sculptures the detailed working out of the hairstyles is eye-catching. It is situated at the Haverwerf in Mechelen.
From a very young age Ernest Wijnants shows talent as a wood carver when working in the furniture industry as a young man. At the age of twenty-one he already is a foreman. He befriends his uncle Rik Wouters, who is fellow townsman, sculptor and painter. His entire work is a tribute to women. He sings the praise of her slenderness, sensuality, wealth, fertility. He cares less about detail than aesthetic design, sometimes adding an air of exoticism.
His style aligns with the pure, serene figures of George Minne and with gothic sculpturing.
WIJNANTS Ernest (1878-1964)
Ernest Wijnants was wood carver in the furniture industry in Mechelen. He got his education at the Academy of Mechelen and from 1906 onwards in Brussels. His first individual exhibition took pace in 1911 in Brussel. He was nominated teacher at the Academy for Fine Arts of Antwerpen in 1926 and was teacher at the National Higher institute for Fine Arts in Antwerpen from 1931 onwards. He got several awards: the ‘Prijs Edmond Picard’ (1926) the ‘Grote Prijs der Plastische Kunsten’ (1938) and other prizes, he designed the Belgian one franc coin in 1936 which remained in circulation until 1952. Wijnants was a member of the Royal Flemish Academy for Science, Literature and Fine Arts (1938) and his work was frequently exhibited in Belgium and abroad.
Kunst in de Stad – June 15th 1991