Hidden Belgium: The Liège museum that saved a Picasso

Hidden Belgium: The Liège museum that saved a Picasso
Picasso's Soler family portrait, 1903. Credit: Wikimedia

It used to be a forgotten art museum at the end of an island in the Meuse. But La Boverie has been reborn. The grand domed building put up for the 1905 World Fair reopened a few years ago after a long restoration. And the museum is now connected to Liège Guillemins station by a new footbridge.

The collection had been neglected for many years, At one point, the city was poised to sell a Picasso painting to pay off its debts. But Liège is working on its image and its main museum is now a stunning place with big windows looking out on the river.

The collection of paintings has been built up over the centuries. The most intriguing room is hung with modern paintings declared “degenerate art” by the Nazis. They were among hundreds of paintings sold off by the Nazis in 1938 at an auction in Lucerne. A delegation sent from Liège to buy up works for La Boverie returned with nine paintings, including Picasso’s sad portrait of the Soler Family sitting down to a picnic.

The delegation then went to Paris with unspent funds and trawled the city’s galleries in search of other modern works. They returned with some precious paintings, including Dutch artist Kees Van Dongen’s strange portrait of an impossibly thin violinist.

The museum also has a beautiful painting of Le Havre harbour by Monet, along with works by Wiertz, Ensor and Magritte.

The museum café has been cleverly renamed Madame Boverie. It occupies a grand domed hall furnished with old industrial benches, assorted wooden chairs and plants in black metal pots.

Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.  

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