Constantin Emile Meunier(1831 - Belgian1905)

Meunier was born in Etterbeek and became one of the key European social-realist artists of the late 19th century. After studying at the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Brussels under the sculptor Louis Jehotte (1804-1884) he began work as a sculptor. During the period from 1857-1884, however, the artist produced only paintings (doubting during that time that he could use sculpture effectively as a vehicle of expression).

As a painter, Meunier joined other rebellious young artists in founding the Societe Libre des Beaux-Arts in 1868 in Brussels. He was an active part of the realist avant-garde movement of the time but always searching out his own path in art. Visits to mine and factories inspired Meunier towards a humanitarian interest in the workers, especially the plight of miners of the Borinage (a Belgian coalmining region), the dockworkers of Antwerp, metal workers and women labourers.

After a visit to Spain in 1882, sponsored by the Belgian government; Meunier returned to Belgium and his passion for sculpture was re-kindled. He was able through both media to express the powerful balance of the suffering of the individual workers and the nobility of labour that became the social-realism of the turn of the century. The artist’s most ambitious, monumental work: ‘Monuments of Labour’ now stands in the Place de Tooz in Brussels (erected only after his death) and a ‘Musée Constantin Meunier’ was also created in Brussels.