Pieter Wagemans was born on 11 August 1948 in Merksem, close to the city of Antwerp, Belgium. From his youth Pieter has always been able to express himself spontaneously through the artistic gift that he probably inherited from his father. Even from his early years it seemed likely that he would develop this gift further. At the age of 15 he decided to take lessons at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp.
During his training at the Academy Pieter had many opportunities to practise life drawings, mainly still lifes, but also nudes and landscapes, each time under the inspiring leadership of professors such as Jacques Gorus and Victor Dolfyn. Through much hard work, they gave him a good grounding in classical painting skills and taught him to master the techniques of an artist.
In 1969 Pieter obtained the commercially valuable diploma of graphic designer, artist and illustrator. After his military service he set out as a free-lance illustrator and designer, working for various publishers over a number of years.
Throughout these years Pieter has continuously refined his painting technique. It was a long journey, searching for the style that best fitted his vision and working methods. His training at the Academy had helped him onto the right path, but there was still a long way to go. In this period Pieter took on a commission to paint a series of large ceiling paintings in the 16th century home of the Antwerp artist David Van Noort. These paintings, in the style of the old masters, gave Pieter valuable experience in their use of colour, contrast with light and shadow and the importance of composition.
Gradually it became clear to Pieter that he had an increasing preference for fine art painting. “It is more a character trait than a conscious style,” according to Pieter.
By studying famous still life paintings and the work of flower painters such as David de Heem, Willem Heda and Rachael Ruys, Pieter strengthened his insight into colour harmony and deepened his understanding. Thematically he prefers still life paintings with antique objets d’art. Looking for the symbolic value of a composition he builds a moving story. The ‘vanitas’ motif is a major source of inspiration. Reflecting on the transitory nature of life, beauty often is incorporated in the form of a flower.
Pieter in his studio
As a variation on still life, in recent years Pieter has developed his specialised talents in flower compositions. In comparison with still life paintings there are significant differences to observe in expression, technique and composition as well as in the colour palette – colours are purer, with richer contrasts. The flowers add volume to the paintings and bring a baroque impression. These paintings are all created in his studio; with landscapes flowing spontaneously from his imagination. For the harmonic depth Pieter often prefers the warm glow of a low sun.
“I prefer roses,” says Pieter, “if only because of their aristocratic aura. Together with sumptuous fabrics and items of silver they provide most beautiful compositions.”
The fine painting of flowers demands considerable discipline, because the passing of time is an important challenge. A flower is always changing. To capture the moment, Pieter bypasses the use of underpainting and paints each flower in turn, ‘alla prima’ until the painting is finished.
Sometimes he needs a whole day for each flower, other times only a few hours. Often the flower compositions never existed in reality because the flowers were painted one by one over several weeks.