Bruges’ most celebrated art gallery boasts an astonishingly rich collection whose strengths are in superb Flemish Primitive and Renaissance works, depicting the conspicuous wealth of the city with glitteringly realistic artistry. In room 2 are meditative works including Jan Van Eyck’s 1436 radiant masterpiece Madonna with Canon George Van der Paele (1436) and the Madonna by the Master of the Embroidered Foliage, where the rich fabric of the Madonna’s robe meets the ‘real’ foliage at her feet with exquisite detail.
Gruesomely gory scenes include flaying alive in Gerard David’s Judgement of Cambyses (1498; room 1) and the multiple tortures of St George (room 3). Visions of the city surface again in the Townscapes and Landscapes room, with picturesque scenes by Jan Anton Garemijn, as well as Auguste van de Steene’s austere view of the market square. Later artistic genres also get a look in, including a typically androgynous figure by superstar symbolist Fernand Khnopff, plus a surrealist canvas each from Magritte and Delvaux. Flemish Expressionist works from the 1920s show the influence of cubism and German expressionism on Flemish artists – most striking are Constant Permeke’s earth-coloured depictions of peasant life in Pap Eaters and The Angelus.