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DEES DE BRUYNE

Painter and enfant terrible of Gent, whose work is driven by passion, eroticism and aggression.

1940

Born.

Initially studies architecture and later portraiture, but leaves the academy of Gent. To start with he works intuitively and at great speed.

1966

In the television programme Tienerklanken (Teenage Sounds) of the former BRT channel, De Bruyne is portrayed as an angry young man who rants against bailiffs and state police (who threaten with legal proceedings after he paints a life model in the presence of his children), and against doctors who speak of clients instead of patients.

He is for sexual freedom and against money (when he has it), ‘against academies which should be destroyed, against abstract and figurative art’. In answer to the question ‘Are you a pacifist?’ the painter answers ‘I don’t know the word’, after which De Bruyne makes a drawing on fur of a live sheep, out on the pavement of a shopping street.

With a painting like De Kindervrienden (The Children’s’ Friends) De Bruyne shows himself as a social seismograph: five ‘powers of the earth’ (prelates, politicians, businessmen) maltreat naked children atop a luxuriously laid table.

1985

The painter exhibits works he made in Italy and New York at the Dhondt-Dhaenens Museum (Deurle), namely the portraits of the American writer and poet Charles Bukowski and portraits of himself with his wife. They live as bohemians at Chelsea Hotel.

1991

For a few weeks De Bruyne lives in the attic of the psychiatric centre of Dr. Guislain in Gent and has lots of contact with the patients. Roland De Bruyne, brother of Dees, works in the centre during this time. When the painter is asked to hold an exhibition in the centre, he agrees on condition that he is allowed to live there temporarily with his wife. They live there together in an old sleeping bag from the girls ward. This is how the series of paintings Waanzin? (Madness?) come into being. The Dr. Guislain Museum organises a retrospective of De Bruyne’s work in 2015.

1996

In the autumn De Bruyne gets cancer. His wife Octavia takes care of him. ‘He fought until the end. He had arranged everything to ask for euthanasia, which was still illegal then, but when the time came he wanted to live until the end after all’.

1998

Dies.

The exhibition in 2015 prompted Guido Lauwaert of Knack to write a tender retrospective: ‘He kept a big distance from soap. His head slightly faced down, ready to give someone a headbutt. Suspicion was locked in his glance, hands (undoubtedly clenched) in the pockets of a short jacket, or gripping a glass (mine! mine!) and a fag. Sober, he was too quiet for a normal person, which he wasn’t because he looked like a dockworker but was an artist. A real one. Voilà, ladies and gentlemen… The painter Dees De Bruyne’.