Columbus Museum of Art Celebrating Paul-Henri Bourguignon

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly
"Via Cruces" by Paul-Henri Bourguignon, one of dozens of the artist's works on exhibition beginning this month at the Columbus Museum of Art.

It was 1950 when Columbus became the unlikely home base of Belgian painter Paul-Henri Bourguignon (1906-1988). The artist and his wife, Erika, an anthropologist, moved to town when she started teaching at Ohio State University. "As I've been told, Columbus was a very different place in 1964," says Columbus Museum of Art curator Dominique Vasseur, "much less sophisticated than we are today." What the city offered the artist was, Vasseur says, "a very comfortable place to create art."

Residents of Bourguignon's adopted hometown will have the chance to view his work beginning Oct. 17, when the Columbus Museum of Art presents Paul-Henri Bourguignon: A 50th Anniversary Exhibition, a showcase of about 45 Bourguignon works, including landscapes and portraits. The museum last put on a Bourguignon show five decades ago.

Not that his work reflected Columbus: Instead of looking out his window for inspiration, Bourguignon relied on his earlier far-flung globe-trotting. His 1964 gouache painting "Trujillo" was likely based on slides and photographs taken of the city in Spain for which the work is named-but the artist's remove from its subject does not dull its impact. Says Vasseur, "It's a very powerful work that gives you the sense of the red-tile roofs and the strong sun reflecting off of the whitewashed buildings." The lesson, he adds, is "an artist can create art anywhere."