St. Gudule’s at Brussels

John Burgess (1814 - 1874)

Watercolour on paper

  • About the work

    This nineteenth-century watercolour depicts a view of the cathedral of St. Gudule in Brussels. Its distinctive Gothic towers dwarf the various individuals and groups scattered in front of the imposing façade. In this depiction, John Burgess emphasises the magnificence of the building by bathing much of the soaring Gothic façade in a soft golden light.   

    The cathedral was built on the ruins of a twelfth century temple, with Duke Henri I of Brabant laying the cornerstone in 1226. The façade of the building today is in the Brabant Gothic style but due to the length of time it took to build, the building incorporated four different architectural styles between the thirteenth and the seventeenth centuries. Sitting halfway up a hill and overlooking the French and Spanish quarters, the cathedral dominates the whole city. The grandest church in Brussels, it is often used for Catholic ceremonies of national interest, such as royal marriages and state funerals. 

  • About the artist
    Watercolourist John Burgess was born in Birmingham; the son of landscape painter John Cart Burgess (1788/9-1863) and Charlotte (born c.1792), daughter of painter and engraver Anker Smith (1759-1819). Burgess became a painter after an early career on the sea. In about 1833 he went to Italy via Normandy and Paris, and stayed there until 1837. At this period he was striving to be a figure painter, but he later turned to landscape. On his return he made sketching tours in Devon, Surrey and the Thames Valley, and in 1840 settled in Leamington Spa. In 1851 he was elected an associate member of the Society of Painters in Watercolour. Burgess was still living in Wellington Street, Leamington Spa, when his father died at that address in 1863.
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  • Details
    St. Gudule’s at Brussels
    Watercolour on paper
    height: 58.00 cm, width: 38.50 cm
    Purchased from Appleby Bros, February 1973
    bl: St Gudule ; br: John Burgess
    GAC number