The Black Light
Henri Van Straten (1892–1944) was an exceptional woodcutter, lithographer and painter who worked in Antwerp until 1930, after which he settled in Heide-Kalmthout. He disappeared in the midst of military violence during the liberation of Antwerp on 7 September 1944. In spite of his untimely death he left a vast oeuvre.
His linocuts are testament to the use of a new medium in Belgium, as opposed to the traditional woodcut used in the twenties of the previous century. Along with his graphic soul mates of the Antwerp avant-garde magazine Lumière (Jan and Jozef Cantré, Frans Masereel and Joris Minne, also known as The Great Five) he was at the vanguard of this innovation which caused a furore in other parts of Europe at the time.
Henri Van Straten gives a striking black and white image of the unrestrained spirit which reigned particularly in cities following the spiritual and material oppression of the war. Not only are cabaret and vaudeville portrayed in an exuberant manner, but also the day-to-day reality of the common man, as well as social phenomena such as migrants hoping to reach the New World via the harbour, which are to this day enduring and universal images.
This unique exhibition of linocuts and zincographs by Henri Van Straten is not just an exceptional event in ‘his’ Antwerp; in terms of content his work complements the museum’s permanent collection of pioneers such as Edvard Munch, Francisco Goya and Félicien Rops.