Koen Broucke, versatile artist/historian

We meet artist Koen Broucke (58) at Villa Elise in the heart of the Ostend Belle Epoque district on the occasion of a thematic exhibition ‘1911, La gamme d’amour’ as part of ‘Ensor 2024’.

Since his youth, this artist has been fascinated by historical comics and everything related to history. During numerous stays with his family – his great-grandmother ran a hat shop in Ostend – Domaine Raversyde and Fort Napoleon were among his favorite exploration areas. He integrated this into his own comic drawings as a child. After high school, he studied history before enrolling at the Antwerp Academy. Already during his art education, he acquired a studio at the renowned National Higher Institute for Fine Arts. This marked the beginning of a versatile artistic journey with numerous drawings, paintings, videos, book publications, installations, and performances.

Faithful to Ostend
“After my studies, I stayed in Antwerp for a while, where I combined my artistic existence ‘for a living’ with a job as a warehouse worker. From the moment I could somewhat make a living from my artworks, I settled in my studio in Boechout. This became the epicenter and base for my artistic work for about 20 years. In between, I obtained a doctorate in the arts with my research ‘Under the pink darkness of the battlefield, an artistic quest for the atmospheric layers of history,’ which resulted in a book and a successful exhibition,” describes Koen Broucke his fascinating artistic career. But the story doesn’t end there. Numerous exhibitions and artistic performances followed both domestically and abroad. A few years ago, he moved his studio to the picturesque Waulsort on the Meuse. Since then, he has been commuting between this Walloon municipality and Ostend, where he also has a permanent place. “In fact, I’m neither a true ‘washed ashore’ nor a second resident here,” he explains. “My childhood memories and fascination with the sea created an inseparable bond with the City by the Sea.”


His countless paintings on the theme of ‘the sea’ also run like a thread through Koen Broucke’s body of work. “The element of water has always fascinated me, combined with my interest in climate and the environment,” Koen Broucke continues. “Routinely, I try to paint a marine scene every day. This allows me to discover for myself the continuous evolution and progress in my works, where water, air, sea, movement, light, and clouds are central. I employ a style characterized by the use of both large brushes and fine brushes. ‘Atmosphere’ and ‘movement’ are undoubtedly two elements that dominate my paintings. Aspects that are also found in the works I create in my studio in Wallonia. Of course, the proximity of the Meuse River plays an important role in this. This is reflected especially in the contrast between the powerful flow of river water with its picturesque banks and the boundless tumult of the sea and the beach that I experience and observe, for example, in Ostend.”

Knowledge layers become layers of paint

“As my knowledge progressed, so did my paintings and other artistic work,” continues Koen Broucke. “Not only the water itself, but also life in and around water, and various historical themes continue to fascinate me. My fascination with Ostend and the ever-changing North Sea, the Siege of Ostend, and the former island of Testerep have had and still have their influence on my paintings. But also, other historical elements such as the Battle of Waterloo or other battlefields I have visited over the past 10 years are reflected in my works. The connection with my historical background doesn’t leave me during the creation of my paintings, in my drawings, and during my lectures, performances, and exhibitions both domestically and internationally.”

The connection with music
It quickly becomes evident during the conversation that Koen Broucke is a versatile artist, much like James Ensor, whom he greatly admires. However, he also believes that in this Ensor year, there is insufficient appreciation and knowledge for Ensor’s musical works. Koen Broucke wrote an article about this for De Lage Landen and EOS. He himself connects his artistic existence to his passion for music. “I also studied piano, which ultimately led me to regularly organize musical performances where I illustrate my artistic oeuvre with piano music played by me, including works by Franz Liszt.”

Impressive body of work

Due to his versatility, Koen Broucke somewhat modestly refers to himself as an ‘artistic jack-of-all-trades’. However, after our acquaintance, we are convinced that his work represents an intriguing and unique intersection between art and history, with profound psychological and humorous points of contact. With exhibitions and performances in Amsterdam, Antwerp, Adelaide (Australia), Autun1911Bruges, Brussels, Breda, Cologne, Namur, Paris, Pori (Finland), Rauma (Finland), Rome, and Valencia, often alongside other globally renowned artists, his track record is, to say the least, ‘astonishing’.

Future performances and exhibitions

April-May 2024: MOSA MYSTICA, solo exhibition in the beautifully restored premises of ‘de Halle’ in Geel.

May 5, 2024: Artistic Talk with Eric Rinckhout, premiere of ‘De honden zullen blaffen’ (film directed by Tijs Posen) at Schouwburg Geel.

May 2024: ENSOR EN SORTIE Expo curated by Eric Rinckhout featuring Nick Andrews, Yves Beaumont, Fred Bervoets, Guillaume Bijl, Koen Broucke, James Ensor, and others (CAPS Antwerp).

May-October 2024: LES LIAISONS DESIREUSES, group exhibition on seduction and desires at Kasteel d’Ursel in Hingene.

June 16, 2024: HET MILJOEN by Koen Broucke.

September 20, 2024: 1911, LA GAMME D’AMOUR, concert and performance with Jan Michiels at De Grote Post Oostende.

Text: Walter Ego – Photos: © Atelier Broucke
With thanks to Sigrid Geldof.