LENS, Andries Cornelis
(b. 1739, Antwerpen, d. 1822, Bruxelles)

Hercules Protects Painting from Ignorance and Envy

Oil on canvas, 73 x 92 cm
Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp

A series of recent studies and acquisitions have led to something of a new attitude towards 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.

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, and encountered a certain degree of resistance in the art world. Andries Cornelis Lens had to run the gauntlet of these difficulties in Antwerp where he strove to renew both painting and artistic education. In 1763, Lens became the director of the Antwerp Academy, and to show his gratitude, he donated the work Hercules Protects Painting from Ignorance and Envy - an allegory in which his new task was clearly expressed.