VERHAGHEN, Pieter Jozef
(b. 1728, Aarschot, d. 1811, Leuven)
Hagar and Ishmael Banished by Abraham1781
Oil on canvas, 168 x 195 cm
Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp
A series of recent studies has led to something of a new attitude towards Flemish painting in the 18th century. Until fairly recently, the art of this period was considered to be rather inferior, despite the high artistic output, because of its perceived lack of innovation. On the one hand, Flemish artists of the 18th century continued to live off the inheritance of Rubens, whose art seemed unsurpassable. Artists such as Pieter Jozef Verhaghen worked entirely in the tradition of Rubens, and although he spent a few years in Italy, there are few traces of this in his work. His Hagar and Ishmael banished by Abraham, painted for the abbey at Tongerlo, has all the outward characteristics of a baroque painting, but lacks Rubens expressiveness. Meanwhile, other artists had fallen under the spell of France with its trend-setting rococo artists. This development was, however, rather out of character with Flemish artistic tradition.