Should we consider Gaston Bertrand as an abstract painter? Given the ambiguity that has been for a long time hovering over the artist’s work, the question can indeed be asked. Considering the significant number of purely geometric creations, one would answer in an affirmative way. However, how to explain then the presence of human figure all through the artist’s work; a human representation that would instead classify Gaston Bertrand as a figurative painter. Would there be then two Gaston Bertrand? We should maybe admit that, unlike the vast majority of abstract painters, Gaston Bertrand did not hesitate, according to his own desires, to pass constantly from one bank to the other. Indeed, Bertrand’s work is articulated at the precise fracture point between abstraction and figuration. This is why his work is so unique and this specificity demonstrates his extraordinary synthesis power. Bertrand acutely observes reality and aims, in one same piece of work, to “decant” that reality. A feeling and even a certainty arises when looking closer at Gaston Bertrand’s work and examining his drawings, watercolours and oil paintings: almost all the painter’s works originate from cross looks on the outside world and from the mental blueprint that the painter creates out of that cross look. Bertrand stands at an equal distance between what can be seen and what can be thought, between the depiction of reality and pure construction of the mind; it is to say at the intersection point where the very essence of the painting takes shape, where the form is developed and where this sort of transubstantiation of reality, which makes the work of Gaston Bertrand truly unique in contemporary art, operates.

Portrait of Serge Goyens de Heusch, 1978

It is tempting to argue that geometry is, for orthodox abstract painters, a plastic aim in itself as it accesses the aesthetic dimension. However, for Gaston Bertrand, geometry is one way that both allows to control the effusion of sensitiveness in the face of reality and to give some consistency and a static nature or, in other words, some rigour to the « depicted world ». Gaston Bertrand considers figures, landscapes and architecture as exogenous elements. However, he always managed to detect, within these elements, the structures and harmonics echoing his own ones. This is what singles out Gaston Bertrand compared to the plethora of contemporary artists who were, just like him, attracted to abstraction. While reality was essential to his work, subjective experiences were more important for him than the objects or beings which occasionally led to these experiences. The originality of Gaston Bertrand within the modernist movement lies in the fact that, although his work refers to some visual reality and even to imagination, its evocative nature reflects a cosmic order or, perhaps more accurately, a form that is not the expression, the image or even a symbol of the work but rather is the work itself.

Serge Goyens de Heusch, President of the Foundation

Gaston Bertrand Foundation’s activities

Created in 1986 (Royal Decree of 17 December), “the Foundation aims at promoting and ensuring the notoriety of the work of the painter Gaston Bertrand, as well as making it as widely accessible as possible to the public, including through exhibitions, films, books and magazines and, more generally, through artistic and cultural dissemination as well as the preservation of the painter’s archives”.
Over the past 30 years, the Gaston Bertrand Foundation has been focused on promoting the work of the artist according his wish:

By publishing several books, including the catalogue of the retrospective exhibitions held in Ostend and Liège (1988 – 1989), the catalogues of the exhibitions held in Paris (1995) and in Rome (1996), L’œuvre gravé (1996), the monograph published by the Fonds Mercator (1997), the Catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre peint (2001), Le dessin dans l’œuvre de Gaston Bertrand (2002) and Conversation (2014). Some of these books are available for sale (go to the Publications section of this website).

By exhibiting his works in personal and collective events, both in Belgium and abroad.
Among these exhibitions we can cite the personal exhibitions held at the PMMK in Ostend (now the Mu.ZEE) in 1988, the retrospective exhibition held at the Museum of the Walloon Art in Liège (now the Museum of Fine Arts– Museum La Boverie), at the Ixelles Museum in 1992 and 1993 (retrospective exhibition), in 1995 at the Centre Wallonia-Brussels in Paris and at the Foundation for Belgian Contemporary Art in Brussels (L’oeuvre gravé), at the Academia Belgica in Rome in 1996, at the Ecuries royales in Brussels in 1997 for the publication of the monograph, jointly organized with the exhibitions held at the Foundation for Belgian Contemporary Art in Brussels and at the Nicolas de Staël Centre in Braine-L’Alleud, at the Lucien Schweitzer Gallery in Luxemburg in 1998, at the Chapelle de Boondael in Brussels in 1999, the drawings retrospective held in 2002 at the Foundation for Belgian Contemporary Art, at the cultural centres of Uccle and Glons in 2005, the retrospective held in the Museum of Fine Arts of Verviers in 2009, the two exhibitions organized in 2010 at the occasion of the centenary of the birth of Gaston Bertrand in partnership with the Museum of Louvain-la-Neuve and the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels and, over the years, several exhibitions that have been held in Brussels: Patrick Derom Gallery, Group 2 Gallery, Wittamer Gallery, Didier Devillez Gallery and Harold t’Kint Gallery.

Several collective exhibitionsshowed Bertrand’s works, as for example in 1987 at the cultural centre of Hasselt and at the Museum of Fine Arts of Mons, in 1990 at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium in Brussels (Goldschmidt collection), at the Foundation for Belgian Contemporary Art in Brussels and in other Belgian cities in 1987, 1988, 1990, 1992, 1994, 1995, 1998 and in 2004 for the tribute that was paid to his painting workshop at the Saint-Luc Institute of Brussels, at the Dhondt-Dhaenens Museum in Deurle in 1989, at the Crédit communal Gallery in Brussels (now Belfius) in 1992, for the major exhibition devoted to the “Jeune Peinture Belge” (Youg Belgian Painting), at the Ixelles Museum in Brussels in 1995, 2001, 2003 (Simon collection) and in 2012 (Verbaet collection), at the Crédit Communal Gallery in Brussels in 1996, at the Witte Zall in Ghent and at the Albert Van Dyck Museum in Schilde in 1999, at the Palace of Fine Arts of Brussels at the occasion of Europalia Brussels in 2000, at the lanchelevici Museum in La Louvière and at the Museum of Fine Arts of Charleroi in 2001, at the Botanique in Brussels and at the S.M.A.K. in Ghent in 2003, at the Luc Peire Foundation in Knokke in 2004, at the Museum of Louvain-la-Neuve when Serge Goyens de Heusch made a substantial donation in 2005, in 2008 for the travelling exhibition Le cube au carré², in 2010 at the Maison de la Culture of Namur and at the Museum of Louvain-la-Neuve, in 2012 in the Allende auditorium at the ULB (Brussels University) for a tribute paid to Nicolas de Staël and at the Cultural centre of Uccle, at the Museum of Fine Arts of Mons (BAM) in 2014 for an overview of Belgian geometric abstraction after 1945, at the Verbaert Art Centre of Antwerp in 2015, in 2016 at the M HKA of Antwerp, at the Bateliers in Namur(exhibition devoted to the architect Roger Bastin) and at the Galeries Vénitiennes in Ostend for the B.Last exhibition which gathered three generations of abstract Belgian artists. Art pieces of Gaston Bertrand were also exhibited in various occasions in the Linéart art fairs in Ghent, in the Antique Fair-Brafa in Brussels and in Eurantica in Brussels.

Bertrand’s work was also noticed abroad in the context of collective exhibitions such as in Barcelona in 1990 and at the Biaf Art Fair in Prague in 1991, at the Centre Wallonia-Brussels in Paris in 1991 and in 2008, in Orléans in 1995, in many cities around the world with the travelling exhibition Van Ensor tot Landuyt, van Khnopff tot Somville in1996, at the Graci Palace in Venice in 1997, at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence in 2004 and 2014, in 2015 at the Espace de l’Art Concret in Mouans-Sartoux (South of France) for an overview of Belgian geometric abstraction and, that same year, at the Parasol Unit Foundation in London (The Gap : Selected Abstract Art from Belgium).

By creating the Gaston Bertrand award which was awarded to Boris Semenoff for its first edition in 1999. Since then, five other Belgian artists received this award and benefited from a retrospective exhibition: Francis De Bolle in 2007, Christian Rolet in 2010, Camille De Taeye in 2012, Jacques Zimmermann in 2014, Gisèle Van Lange in 2016, Dominiq Fournal in 2018, Denis De Mot in 2021 and bern Wéry in 2023. For more information about the awarded artists, please read the Prix section of this website.

By forming the archives of the Foundation on the basis of the significant amount of documents left by Gaston Bertrand. These documents include: the inventory of his works, his studio’s books (which include information about his painting techniques), the various documents and mails regarding exhibitions under preparation and the orders that he received, invitation cards and catalogues of the exhibitions in which Gaston Bertrand took part, newspaper articles, the exhaustive list of all the works that were sold at public auctions, the courses programme of the Saint-Luc Institute of Brussels, biographical materials, information about trips that he made, letters exchanged with his family, friends and for professional purpose, all the pictures of his family, his youth, his house-studio built by Jacques Dupuis, of his friends, of the Young Belgian Painting, of his painting workshop in Saint-Luc, of Gaston Bertrand while he was working, of trips and exhibitions, etc.
The foundation organized a classification of these archival documents and incrementally supplemented them with the activities and projects that were undertaken, including through the production of a major illustrated inventory of the artist’s works (oil paintings, watercolours-gouaches, pastels, ink wash paintings, drawings, engravings and jewels).
The archives can be consulted by prior appointment: fondation-gaston-bertrand@outlook.be.

By tracking the developments related to the artist, in Belgium and abroad, keeping in continuous contact with the museums, galleries, cultural centres and auction halls but also with the collectors and lovers of Gaston Bertrand’s work.