Guillaume Geefs

Guillaume Geefs (10 September 1805 19 January 1883[1]), also Willem Geefs, was a Belgian sculptor. Although known primarily for his monumental works and public portraits of statesmen and nationalist figures, he also explored mythological subject matter, often with an erotic theme.

Guillaume Geefs
illustration by Médard Tytgat
Born10 September 1805
Died19 January 1883(1883-01-19) (aged 77)
EducationRoyal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp and École des Beaux-Arts (Paris)
Known forsculpture
Notable work
Victims of the Revolution (1838); statues, busts, and tomb monuments of statesmen and artists; Le génie du mal
Movementsynthesis of Late Flemish Baroque, Neoclassicism, Romanticism, Realism


Guillaume Geefs was born in Antwerp, the eldest of six brothers in a family of sculptors, the best-known of whom are Joseph Geefs (1808–1885, winner of the Prix de Rome in 1836) and Jean Geefs (1825–1860, and winner of the prize in 1846). Guillaume first studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp under the late–Flemish Baroque sculptor Jan Frans van Geel and his son, Jan Lodewijk van Geel, who was also a sculptor.[2] He completed his training under Jean-Etienne Ramey at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and began exhibiting his work in 1828.

In 1829, Geefs traveled to Italy. When he returned to Antwerp, he began teaching at the art academy. During the 1830s, he executed the colossal work Victims of the Revolution at Brussels, as well as numerous statues and busts. In 1836, he married Isabelle Marie Françoise Corr, a Brussels-born painter of Irish descent known professionally as Fanny Geefs.[3] In the mid-19th century, the sculptor Guillaume-Joseph Charlier was an assistant to him and his brother Joseph.[4]

The Geefs family played a leading role in the craze for public sculpture that followed Belgian independence in the 1830s,[5] producing several propagandistic monuments that emphasized a "historical continuity of the southern Low Countries in the new independent state".[6]


As an artist

Geefs' early work has been characterized as "predominately elegiac in mood". By the end of the 1830s, however, he developed a powerful, spare realism in monumental works such as General Belliard and Frédéric de Mérode (erected in Brussels, 1836 and 1837) and Peter Paul Rubens (Antwerp, 1841).[11] He was prolific in producing tombs, pulpits, statues, busts, and sculpture groups.[12]


The works of Guillaume Geefs include:

  • Gardel Memorial (1864), a 25 foot pyramid memorial in Mount Vernon Cemetery in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with statues depicting Africa, Asia, Europe, Hope and Faith


In his lifetime, Geefs' work was considered by some to be marred by "frivolous and inessential" details and "poverty of thought", together with a perceived frigidity of expression in his modelling. He is now regarded as the dominant Belgian sculptor of his time.[16]

See also


  1. ArtFact.
  2. "Jan Frans van Geel", Art Encyclopedia.
  3. "Geefs, Guillaume (1805–1883)",
  4. "Charlier, Guillaume(-Joseph)", ArtNet based on the Grove Dictionary of Art.
  5. "Sculpture et des arts décoratifs du XVIe au début du XXe siècle", Archived 20 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  6. Léon E. Lock, "A brief history of the sculpture in the present-day Netherlands and Belgium" Archived 11 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  7. Almanach royal officiel: 1875, p. 20
  8. Handelsblad (Het) 15-05-1881
  9. Almanach royal officiel: 1875, p. 20
  10. Almanach royal officiel: 1875, p. 20
  11. "Geefs, Guillaume (1805–1883)", .
  12. catalogue. Charles Flint Art & Antiques
  14. A brief history of the sculpture in the present-day Netherlands and Belgium "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 February 2009. Retrieved 6 May 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  15. Pierre Henrion, "La Commission des Arts de la Région wallonne," Les echos du patrimoine. Archived 30 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  16. "Geefs, Guillaume (1805–1883)",
  17. Max Rooses, Art in Flanders (Heinemann, 1914), p. 292 online.

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