The art and culture of Belgium is a medium of expression through which artists from various disciplines portray the life and traditions of the people of the country. Belgium is essentially a heterogeneous country with diverse ethnic groups; hence there is a mix of different cultures co-existing within one nation. The arts and culture of Belgium is diverse, rich and colorful and beautifully depict the aesthetic values of the nation as a whole.
Art styles in Belgium move from realism to surrealism. Realism portrays life in its basic, realistic form while surrealism deviates from the norm. In the field of visual arts, artists from Belgium are among the best in Europe. With a wide variety of museums like The Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Belgium boasts of some of the most remarkable collections by artists like Peter Paul Ruben and Anthony Van Dyck. Among the 15 th century artists, famous names include Hubert, Jan van Eyck, Quentin Matsys, Hans Memling, and Rogier van der Weyden. James Ensor was the most renowned contemporary artist of Belgium.
Musical genres in Belgium range from the classical to Jazz and from the popular to hip hop. Many famous classical composers like Cesar Franck, Henri Vieuxtemps, Guillaume Lekeu and Wim Mertens were born in Belgium. Other renowned singers include pioneer Bobbejaan Schoepen, Johnny Hallyday, Maurane and Jacques Brel.
The jazz scene in Belgium is particularly lively and in recent years, it has attained international acclaim with popular bands like Octurn, Maak's Spirit, and Aka Moon. The most renowned jazz musicians in Belgium are guitarist Philip Catherine and harmonicist Toots Thielemans.
Popular bands in Belgium include Hooverphonic, Axelle Red, Vaya Con Dios, and K's Choice. The hip-hop culture in Belgium began with the rise of Starflam, CNN, a crew based in Brussels.
The existence of Belgian literature is often denied because there are only Flemish and Walloon or French and Dutch writers who just happen to be citizens of Belgium. Authors like Charles de Coster and Emile Verhaeren have written in French on various Flemish themes.
Flemish and Francophone authors have made significant contributions to literary movements like surrealism, symbolism, and magic realism. Important Flemish writers of the 19 th century were Guido Gezelle and Hendrik Conscience. Themes used in literature mostly dealt with life's difficulties, reality, and everything related to the complexities of life. Maurice Maeterlinck is one of the noted writers of Belgium to win a Noble prize.
Festivals and carnivals play a significant role in the cultural life of the Belgians and almost every city has its own traditional festival which takes months of preparation. The two big festivals in Belgium are the three-day carnival at Binche, and the Procession of the Holy Blood which is held in Bruges in May. The first big carnival at Binche is held just ahead of the Lent season. These festivals are generally colorful events which include activities like music, dance, and sporting competitions.
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