GEEFS, Guillaume
(b. 1805, Antwerpen, d. 1883, Bruxelles)


Belgian sculptor. He was the eldest of six brothers in a family of sculptors. The best-known among his brothers are Joseph Geefs (1808-1885, winner of the Prix de Rome in 1836) and Jean Geefs (1825-1860, and winner of the prize in 1846).

He trained at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp under the late-Baroque sculptor Jan Frans van Geel (1756-1830) and his son, Jan Lodewyk van Geel (1787-1852). In Paris he studied with Lorenzo Bartolini. He began exhibiting his work in 1828. In 1832 he was appointed Royal Sculptor of Belgium. In 1836, he married Isabelle Marie Françoise Corr, a Brussels-born painter of Irish descent known professionally as Fanny Geefs (1807-1883).

To satisfy the demand of official and private commissions, in 1836 Geefs set up his atelier in Brussels, employing his brothers and other artists. Among those who studied in his studio were Pierre Puyenbroeck, Léopold Wiener, Félix Bouré, and Paul Bouré. During the 1830s, he executed the colossal work Victims of the Revolution at Brussels, (1838, an allegorical monument commemorating the Belgian Revolution) as well as numerous statues and busts. The Geefs family played a leading role in the craze for public sculpture that followed Belgian independence in the 1830s, producing several propagandistic monuments that emphasized a historical continuity of the southern Low Countries in the new independent state.

Aside from numerous portraits of the royal family, Geefs was the recipient of many commissions for monuments in Belgium's great cities. His performance at the important international exhibitions when Geefs was in his 50s attracted the patronage of the English and Prussian Royal families, among other foreign patrons, putting him in the top ranks of sculptors of the mid-19th century.

Although known primarily for his monumental works and public portraits of statesmen and nationalist figures, Geefs also explored mythological subject matter, often with an erotic theme.

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