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The central water-bound globe in the middle pane from Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights (c. 1490-1510)
The central water-bound globe in the middle pane from Hieronymus Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights (c. 1490-1510)

"The lowlands facing the North Sea near the mouth of the Rhine were the home of an industrious people, hardy because of their continual struggle with nature for self-preservation. Their knowledge of the sea and their courage in braving it early made them traders and manufacturers. Their ships brought raw wool and carried away the fine woolen cloth famous throughout Europe. Of the several provinces included in the Lowlands, or Netherlands, Flanders up to the seventeenth century was the most important, with many great manufacturing centers, such as Ghent, Louvain, and Ypres, and with Bruges not only the chief market of the Lowlands but one of the great trade centers of Europe. For an arm of the North Sea, now silted up, reached inland to Bruges as late as the fifteenth century. Some of its trade went overland by the Rhine and the Brenner Pass; some went by sea around western Europe through Gibraltar." --Gardner's Art Through the Ages (1926) by Helen Gardner

The Smoker (ca. 1654 - 1662) by Joos van Craesbeeck
The Smoker (ca. 1654 - 1662) by Joos van Craesbeeck

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Flanders refers to the Dutch speaking northern portion of Belgium. Historically, the name referred to a region located in the north-western part of present-day Belgium and adjacent parts of France and the Netherlands. Both in the historical and the contemporary meaning, the demonym associated with Flanders is Fleming, while the corresponding adjective is Flemish. Brussels is the capital of Flanders, though it is also autonomous and only partially under Flanders' jurisdiction.

Flanders has figured prominently in European history. During the late Middle Ages, Flanders' trading towns (notably Ghent, Bruges and Ypres) made it one of the richest and most urbanized parts of Europe, weaving the wool of neighbouring lands into cloth for both domestic use and export. As a consequence, a very sophisticated culture developed, with impressive achievements in the arts and architecture, rivaling those of northern Italy.

Historically, the name referred to the County of Flanders, which around 1000 CE stretched from the Strait of Dover to the Scheldt estuary. The only parts of historical Flanders that lay within modern-day Flanders are the provinces West Flanders and East Flanders.



At first sight, Flemish culture is defined by its language and its gourmandic mentality, as compared to the more Calvinistic Dutch culture. Dutch and Flemish paintings enjoyed more equal international admiration.

Language and literature

Flemish literature, Flemish (linguistics)

The standard language in Flanders is Dutch; spelling and grammar are regulated by a single authority, the Dutch Language Union (Nederlandse Taalunie), comprising a committee of ministers of the Flemish and Dutch governments, their advisory council of appointed experts, a controlling commission of 22 parliamentarians, and a secretariate. The term Flemish can be applied to the Dutch spoken in Flanders; it shows many regional and local variations.

Literature in non-standardized dialects of the current area of Flanders originated with Hendrik van Veldeke's Eneas Romance, the first courtly romance in a Germanic language (12th century). With a writer of Hendrik Conscience's stature, Flemish literature rose ahead of French literature in Belgium's early history. Guido Gezelle not only explicitly referred to his writings as Flemish but actually used it in many of his poems, and strongly defended it

The distinction between Dutch and Flemish literature, often perceived politically, is also made on intrinsic grounds by some experts such as Kris Humbeeck, professor of Literature at the University of Antwerp. Nevertheless, nearly all Dutch-language literature read (and appreciated to varying degrees) in Flanders is the same as that in the Netherlands.

Influential Flemish writers include Ernest Claes, Stijn Streuvels and Felix Timmermans. Their novels mostly describe rural life in Flanders in the 19th century and at beginning of the 20th. Widely read by the older generations, they are considered somewhat old-fashioned by present-day critics. Some famous Flemish writers of the early 20th century wrote in French, including Nobel Prize winners (1911) Maurice Maeterlinck and Emile Verhaeren. They were followed by a younger generation, including Paul van Ostaijen and Gaston Burssens, who activated the Flemish Movement. Still widely read and translated into other languages (including English) are the novels of authors such as Willem Elsschot, Louis Paul Boon and Hugo Claus. The recent crop of writers includes the novelists Tom Lanoye and Herman Brusselmans, and poets such as the married couple Herman de Coninck and Kristien Hemmerechts.


Flanders is known for its music festivals, like the annual Rock Werchter, Tomorrowland and Pukkelpop. The Gentse Feesten are another very large yearly event.

The best-selling Flemish group or artist is the (Flemish-Dutch) group 2 Unlimited, followed by (Italian-born) Rocco Granata, Technotronic, Helmut Lotti and Vaya Con Dios.

The weekly charts of best-selling singles is the Ultratop 50. Kvraagetaan by the Fixkes holds the current record for longest time at #1 on the chart.


Flemish painting

Flemish painting flourished from the early 15th century until the 17th century. Flanders delivered the leading painters in Northern Europe and attracted many promising young painters from neighbouring countries. These painters were invited to work at foreign courts and had a Europe-wide influence.

In the history of art, the adjectives Flemish, Dutch and Netherlandish are commonly used to designate all the artistic production in this area. For examples, Flemish Primitives is synonym for early Netherlandish painting, Franco-Flemish School for Dutch School, and it is not uncommon to see Mosan art categorized as Flemish art.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Flanders" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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