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Art History, Leuven

Research Group

Lifecycle:1 Jul 1977 →  Today
Organisation profile:

The Art History Department comprises three research groups: Medieval Art (Jan Van der Stock, Barbara Baert & Lieve Watteeuw); Early Modern Art (Katlijne Van der Stighelen, Leo De Ren & Koenraad Brosens) and Art of the 20th-Century and Contemporary Art (Hilde Van Gelder).  All members of the Department develop empirical and/or theoretical approaches to Flemish and Belgian art in an international perspective


The Research in Medieval Art is related to Illuminare – Centre for the Study of Medieval Art (KU Leuven) (www.illuminare.be). The research of Illuminare is founded upon reception history and the contextual meaning of Early Netherlandish Art (Jan Van der Stock); technical research, conservation and cataloguing of illuminated manuscripts (Lieve Watteeuw) and the iconology of the Middle Ages from an interdisciplinary perspective (Iconology Research Group - www.iconologyresearchgroup.org) (Barbara Baert). The RICH project (2012-2015) (Reflectance Imaging for Cultural Heritage) aims to create a unique digital imaging tool for researching, studying, and exploring material characteristics of art and library materials created in the Low Countries in medieval and early modern times. Iconological research projects are: The Haemorrhaging Woman (Mark 5:24-34par). An iconological research into the meaning of the bleeding woman in medieval art (4th-15th century) (2008-2012) and Caput Iohannis in Disco or St John’s Head on a Platter: object, context, medium. Illuminare is the publisher of three of its own series, the Corpus of Illuminated Manuscripts, Art and Religion (IRG) and Iconologies (IRG). Illuminare — Centre for the Study of Medieval Art (KU Leuven) organises various exhibitions both in Belgium and abroad. Amongst the most recent are Hieronymus Cock – The Renaissance in Print (2013, M – Museum of Leuven and Fondation Custodia, Paris) and The Magnificent Middle Ages (2013, Museum Plantin-Moretus, Antwerp).


The study of Early Modern art benefits significantly from the existence of the Scientific Research Community (WOG/FWO) Identity, Function & Expansion of the Flemish Baroque in a European Context (Katlijne Van der Stighelen/ Leo De Ren/ Koenraad Brosens).  This community made Leuven a central player within the network of ten European and American university centres of expertise.   It ensures the vitality of yearly organized international symposia and that of the series Pictura Nova. Studies in 16th- and 17th-Century Flemish Painting and Drawing (editors: Katlijne Van der Stighelen & Hans Vlieghe) and Studies in Western Tapestry (editors: Guy Delmarcel & Koenraad Brosens) (www.arts.kuleuven.be/flemishbaroque‎). Within this scientific framework, iconographical, cultural-historical and anthropological research on different aspects of early modern, and, in particular, seventeenth-century, Flemish history painting, genre painting, sculpture design and portraiture, is performed. The network further provides a habitat for ongoing research projects such as Mapping the Antwerp-Brussels-Oudenaarde tapestry complex (1620-1720) via historical network analysis. In the context of the WOG, work has continued on the Art & Law Research Unit. This Leuven research group is concentrating on interdisciplinary research relating to jurisdiction and laboratory research on works of art.


The Art of the 20th-Century and Contemporary Art (Hilde Van Gelder) is related to the Lieven Gevaert Research Centre for Photography, Art and Visual Culture (LGC) (www.lievengevaertcentre.be). The Centre, which is based both in Leuven and in Louvain-la-Neuve (and codirected there by Alexander Streitberger), is currently pursuing a long-term study of Allan Sekula’s Ship of Fools / The Dockers’ Museum (2010-2013) in collaboration with M HKA in Antwerp (2014-2019). Hilde Van Gelder is editor of the Lieven Gevaert Book Series (Leuven University Press), and editor of the open access e-journal Image [&] Narrative (www.imageandnarrative.be), which is part of Open Humanities Press. Her research focuses on how photographic and moving images within contemporary visual art can function both as a driving force for societal change and for re-legitimating or re-imagining fundamental rights. She is a regular guest curator of research-based exhibitions, most recently (2017) of Allan Sekula: Collective Sisyphus at the Fundació Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona (co-curated with Carles Guerra and Anja Isabel Schneider).

Keywords:Tapestry, Miniature Art, Aesthetics, Painting, Illumination, Iconology, Art Criticism, Sculpture
Disciplines:Visual arts, Art studies and sciences, Conservation-restoration science