Belgian Artists in Exile, 1914-1918

By Emily Grenon

In 1916, La League des Artistes Belges [the League of Belgian Artists] published an illustrated volume in association with the magazine Colour. This collection, Belgian Art in Exile: A Representative Gallery of Modern Belgian Art, was intended to raise money for three charities: The Belgian Red Cross, the Convalescent Home for Belgian Soldiers and British Gifts for Belgian Soldiers. The volume was organized by Belgian refugees who had come to Britain following the start of the First World War. The majority of the art contained in it was also made by them during their time in Britain. As such, the collection constitutes an important source on Belgian refugees in Britain, on the curated stories they told about themselves to promote their charitable cause and the unintentional ones that slip through in its pages. Portrayals of Belgians as the victims of German barbarism are made manifest through the paratexts of Belgian Artists in Exile, as well as through paintings like The Flight from Belgium, 1914 by Edouard J. Claes and Chapels of the Church of St. Peter, Louvain by Alfred Delaunois. These works serve to further the same propaganda aims pushed by the British government and press, which used Belgian refugees to create a moral justification for British participation in the War. Yet, simultaneously, these same works and others with less overtly war-focused imagery such as Pierre Paulus’s The Thames (London) also show the Belgian refugee experience through the eyes of Belgian refugees, who have traditionally been left out of writing their own history.

The Usual History of Belgian Refugees

            Academics writing in English about Belgian refugees in Britain during the First World War consistently make the same observations in relation to Belgian refugees in Britain. They focus on the sheer number of Belgian refugees, the “…biggest single influx of refugees… the country had ever seen.[1] By the end of 1915, approximately a quarter of a million Belgian refugees had come to Britain.[2] This statistic is, however, slightly misleading, as the category of Belgian refugee was defined loosely, including both a number of Belgians who were not refugees, for example sailors working routes between the Belgian colonies and Europe, and people who were not citizens of Belgium but had either been residing in Belgium before the war, or travelled through it to England.[3] This miscounting was, however, not significant enough to change the fact that there were a remarkable number of Belgian refugees in England after 1914.

            Given the size of the refugee population, the second thing historians consistently observe is the Belgian refugees’ apparent absence of cultural impact.[4] There is a single exception to this, Agatha Christie’s famous detective Hercule Poirot,but this is the exception that proves the rule; that Poirot was a refugee is now a little-discussed feature of the character. As Rebecca Gill has pointed out, this relative silence is not surprising. Belgians returned home after the war and as such, “no rump population of exiled Belgians existed in Britain to keep their memory of displacement alive.”[5] In Belgium itself, a “culture of avoidance” and a sense of shame about the idea of being a refugee also resulted in a silence disproportionate to the fact that as many as two million Belgians had been refugees during the First World War.[6] The focus of historians on these silences has, however, accompanied a historiographical distortion that implies Belgian refugees were themselves silent. Aside from the work of Christophe Declercq, few academics writing in English use sources written by refugees during or after the War.

            Because historians do not generally tell refugee stories from the refugee’s perspective, other narratives come to dominate, particularly those centring on the role of British charitable organizations. This is the case with the only English-language book dedicated exclusively to the subject of Belgian refugees (as of 2016), Peter Cahalan’s Belgian Refugee Relief in England during the Great War.[7] While the scope of efforts made by the British to welcome Belgian refugees was impressive, this focus obscures discrimination against refugees (particularly those from poorer backgrounds) in England during this time. Among other indignities, one trend that arose was for private ‘hosts’ of refugees to send them away (‘returning’ them to centralized facilities) in seasonal patterns, usually around Christmas and Easter.[8] A focus on the recipients of this ‘generosity’ shows its limitations.

            Yet, as noted, few English-language scholars demonstrate an interest in the experiences of Belgian refugees. Those who do cover the subject are primarily interested in the impact (or lack thereof) on Britain of hosting these refugees, and rarely examine the perspectives of Belgian refugees themselves.

Belgian Refugee Experiences

Belgian refugees came to England during the First World War to flee violence and German invasion, and as result, German advances correlated directly with where refugees came from and when. Although the first refugees began arriving in England in August 1914, the beginning of the assault on Antwerp that October had a massive impact on which Belgians ultimately became refugees. Most of the population of Antwerp ultimately fled, up to half a million people; 26.5% of Belgian refugees in England were from Antwerp.[9] By the end of October, the first hundred thousand refugees from Antwerp and other impacted areas had arrived in England, while many others had fled north to the neutral Netherlands.[10] With the Netherlands unable to meet the needs of refugees, they asked for food aid from Britain, who responded by offering to take in these refugees themselves at a rate of five thousand a week.[11] These refugees, transported to England by a regular shipping service, helped bring the ultimate total of Belgian refugees in England up to a quarter million.[12]

Refugee experiences after arriving in England varied, most especially on the basis of class. It is always easier to be a refugee with one’s own resources, and many Belgian refugees, including those who wrote and created art for Belgian Art in Exile, were independently wealthy, had English connections, or both, and consequently had a very different experience to working and lower-middle class refugees, who comprised the majority.[13] The favouring of refugees from the “respectable classes” was public and intentional; called “differentiation,” this set of beliefs held by most leaders of Britain’s War Refugee Committee suggested that exposure to the lower classes would be dangerous for respectable refugees.[14] Different hostels were established for “better class” refugees, with better amenities and more resources, including food.[15] Thus, the creators of Belgian Art in Exile benefitted not only from their social standing and international connections, but also from discriminatory policies that operated in their favour.

Belgian Art in Exile: Creators and Context

The architects of Belgian Art in Exile, a committee of the League of Belgian Artists, comprised primarily of an elite group of Belgian refugee artists, all of them men, most of them credited as professors at or members of l’Academie Royale de Belgique [The Royal Academy of Belgium], reaffirming their institutional pedigree.[16] That all members of the committee were men was unusual insofar as the work was a piece of charitable fundraising. During the First World War, volunteer work on behalf of charities was conducted primarily by women, particularly due to the fact this sort of work was one of the only ways in which women could show their patriotism.[17] The idea that charity was a field for women can in fact also be seen in this volume. The title page promotes the patrons, the Duchess of Vendôme and the Princess Napoléon, but does not mention any members of the committee that assembled the collection.[18] However, neither woman appears to have been involved in actually creating or organizing the volume. This unusual gender dynamic for the period is likely a result of the fact that Belgian Art in Exile was conceived by the League of Belgian Artists and, as such, “owes its inception to the artists themselves,” rather than the charities.[19] In fact, charity was never the only aim at all; “In general the works [t]here reproduced [were] for sale.”[20]

It is also important to note that the committee was exceptionally privileged. They were well-respected artists, with international connections and even titles. One outlier in their ranks, Frank Brangwyn (also the artist of the cover piece) was not a refugee at all. In fact, he was English by origin, though Belgian-born.[21] Brangwyn’s presence on the committee in and of itself suggests that the other members had connections in England upon whom they could rely, which was an important advantage for refugees to have. For example, one common difficulty refugees encountered was that the way new households in England acquired furniture was through second-hand networks in their communities; refugees, who knew no one, could not access these networks.[22]

Given the predominance of elite men in creating Belgian Art in Exile, and their financial aims in this endeavour, it would be reasonable to ask if this work can fairly be used as a source about the Belgian refugee experience in England. At the very least, it can be assumed that refugees were not the intended audience of this work. That Belgian Art in Exile is printed in English and French, and not in Flemish, reveals an exclusion of many refugees. This exclusion aligns with suggestions by Declercq and Baker that Belgians in Britain replicated their home Walloon-Flemish divide with the Flemish relegated to lower status positions.[23] That the advertisements in the back were printed exclusively in English closes the circle, excluding Francophone Belgians. The target audience of this volume spoke English. In fact, many of the advertisements were for travel (e.g. “Visit ‘The Garden of England’”), which would have been difficult for Belgian refugees due to restrictions on their movement.[24] Belgian refugees sometimes travelled for pleasure, as evidenced by one amusingly scathing review of Newcastle printed in the Belgian exile press.[25] However, some of the destinations listed in these advertisements, like Dover, were along the South or South-East coasts, which were restricted to ‘aliens’ for security reasons.[26]

Because the intended purpose was financial and the intended audience was non-refugees, the analysis of this source must reflect the fact that it is possible experiences were being distorted or curated with this in mind. However, in my view, that does not exclude Belgian Artists in Exile from being a valuable source about the experiences of Belgian refugees (admittedly of a very particular class and gender makeup).   A large part of the Belgian refugee experience did consist of interacting with English people or structures. Belgian refugee artists creating charitable appeals targeted at English audiences is in and of itself part of what it meant for them to be refugees. The tactics they used to navigate this experience are interesting and important to understand.  

Belgian Art in Exile: Paratexts

            In addition to the art itself, Belgian Art in Exile contains a number of paratexts which help elucidate the motivations of the creators and the tactics used by them, as well as influencing how viewers will interpret the collection itself. These paratexts reveal some of the central concerns of the committee organizing Belgian Art in Exile. In particular, they reveal an interest in religious themes, and a participation by Belgian refugees in the construction of anti-German propaganda narratives that were common at this time.

Figure 1 Frank Brangwyn, Mater Dolorosa Belgica, 1915, oil on canvas, 159 cm x 234 cm (62.6 in x 92.1 in), William Morris Gallery, London, England,

The cover piece, Frank Brangwyn’s Mater Dolorosa Belgica (fig. 1) introduces the theme of religion. This is not the work of a Belgian refugee but was selected by those who sat with Brangwyn on the committee to represent and sell their experiences. The imagery of this painting is that of a pieta, but in this case, the figure of Christ is represented as a modern man with a moustache. This choice, along with the image of a ruined cathedral in the background, shows a strong focus on religion, which set majority-Catholic Belgians apart from Protestant English.[27] In the middle distance, on the left and right, one side portrays fleeing civilians – refugees – and the other soldiers. The inclusion of soldiers may be seen as recognizing the importance of the continuing fight to Belgians, but given the English intended audience, this may also be intended to counter perceptions at the time of Belgian men as feminized due to their victim status.[28]

            After this, one comes to the introduction, written by Jean Delville. This piece engages much less with religious subjects. Instead, Delville introduces another lens through which viewers should interpret the art: as a matter of Belgian cultural competition with Germans. This plays into a more general link between Belgian refugees in Britain and anti-German propaganda. One of England’s primary reasons for accepting Belgian refugees in the first place was for propaganda purposes – the victimization of Belgium was their justification for entry into the war, and the “plight and persistence” of refugees was “useful” as part of Britain’s propaganda campaign.[29] This sometimes even included censoring negative press coverage of refugees.[30]

The framing of Germans in the introduction by Delville shows that Belgians were not only the subject of this propaganda campaign, but active participants in it, sometimes in strange ways. Delville accuses the Germans not only of “fill[ing] Belgium with fire and bloodshed,” but also of “…calumniat[ing] Belgian art in its entirety through the imbecile writings of some of her obscurer criticasters and absurder pedants…”[31] Essentially, per Delville, Germans were actively persecuting Belgian art as well as Belgian people, because Germans are without “any refinement” due to the “inherent baseness and vulgar criminality of [their] military ‘Kultur.’”[32]  A discussion of German ‘kultur’ and use of this word to refer not to German cultural achievements but instead to “aggression, militarism, destructiveness, cruelty and violence” was a common propaganda trope at this time, which art historian Brendan Cole has suggested Delville was intentionally playing into.[33] For another example of this in Belgian refugee art, Jules de Bruycker’s 1916 etching Kultur, shows how darkness and violence had been synonymized with German culture (fig. 2). The fact that Delville chose to introduce a collection of Belgian art with a condemnation of German aesthetics shows the way in which this was not only a British propaganda technique, but also a Belgian method of showing their superiority over Germany. One had to be cultured in a Western, European sense to deserve respect, and Delville draws a line by which Belgians are, and “Teuton[s]… the most barbarous of the nomad tribes” are not.[34]

Figure 2 Jules de Bruycker, Kultur, 1916, etching, aquatint and roulette, 64.1 cm x 73.1 cm (25.2 in x 28.8 in) British Museum, London, in Hopkinson, “Belgian Prints,” 424.

After a tribute to King Albert, three poems return the collection to a strong focus on religion as a theme. Emile Verhaeren’s “Les Ancêtres” [The Ancestors] and Marcel Wyseur’s “Les Béguines” (for the Catholic lay order of the same name), both translated fairly faithfully to English by Kenneth Hare, share a strong fixation on religion and history.[35] The third poem, “The Sacred Call,” by introduction-writer Jean Delville, is adapted rather than translated, by Miss G.M. Leeson, and has an equally intense religious focus in both versions, as it sanctifies the act of making war. “Tu sentiras le monde et Dieu – dans ta poitrine.” [you will feel the world and God – in your chest] is the final line of the poem in French.[36]

While touched on in the art in the collection, religion is not in fact as common a theme as these selected poems and the cover art would imply. Both portraits and impressionist landscape paintings are more common in the collection itself. This distortion may suggest an area where the interests of the producers of the collection and the individual artists did not align. The committee wanted a focus on war, Belgian identity, and suffering, and wrote poems or employed poets to write poems about these themes.[37] The artists, however, wished to produce other kinds of work, about other subjects, and did so. Belgian refugees did not in fact spend years in England doing nothing but thinking about patriotism, tragedy, and God. As will be discussed later, large numbers of Belgian refugees were employed, both within and outside the war effort, and those who were not found other ways to occupy their time, from organizing schools to football, boxing, and swimming competitions.[38]

The Thames (London)

            There are enough artworks in this collection that attempting to describe all of them (or even to describe all the broad trends to which they all belong) goes beyond the scope of this paper. Focusing in depth on a few specific works will be more illuminating.  

Figure 3 Pierre Paulus, La Tamise (Londres) / The Thames (London) in Belgian Art in Exile.

Pierre Paulus’s The Thames (London) (fig. 3) appears fairly early in the collection. It is one of two paintings of the river Thames, with the other being Maurice Blieck’s Thames Wharf (fig. 4). At least two prints of the Thames by Belgian refugees also exist, which do not appear in this collection.[39] Paulus himself has another painting called The Thames, completed between 1914 and 1915.[40] This suggests that the Thames was a common subject for Belgian refugee art, raising the question of why.

           Figure 4 Maurice Blieck, Entrepôts Sur la Tamise / Thames Wharf, in Belgian Art in Exile.

London, and a larger stretch of the Thames that would have been outside London at this time, were important sites within the Belgian refugee community. Declercq and Baker have described a “Belgian corridor” of approximately 70 000 people that formed along the Thames both inside and outside London.[41] London in particular was a common locale to find “better class” Belgians who were not in need of either work or financial assistance, as would have been the case for many of these upper-class artists.[42] While the communities in this corridor were fragmented, they were interconnected in social and economic matters, allowing a more elite member like Pierre Paulus to have a sense of the scope of Belgian presence in this area.[43] The multiple representations of the Thames in Belgian refugee art show the connection to the Thames corridor as a site in which the Belgian refugee community was formed during the First World War.

            The Thames (London) fits poorly into the committee-prescribed view of the Belgian refugee experience suggested by the collection’s paratexts. This is not only because its topic, while open to being interpreted as about refugee experience, is not explicitly about war and suffering. It is also because The Thames (London) portrays its subject through an extremely industrial lens. It was possible to paint the Thames without this focus, as Paulus’s other painting of it does, but here he chose not to. This undermines the binary established in the introduction to Belgian Art in Exile, which characterized Germany as having “a modernism as extravagant as it is hideous,” by showing England (its subject) and Belgium (its artists) as inexorably linked to the themes of industrial modernity.[44] In choosing to portray the Thames as profoundly industrial, Paulus comes much closer to portraying the lived realities of many Belgian refugees in the Thames corridor. Nearly 2000 Belgians were employed at the Pelabon munitions factory in Twickenham-Richmond alone.[45] Thus, The Thames (London) is less neatly propagandistic, and truer, than the collection as a whole.

The Flight from Belgium, 1914

Figure 5 Edouard J. Claes, La Fuite de Belgique, 1914 / the Flight from Belgium, 1914, in David, “The Exiled Belgian Workers,” 666.

            By contrast, Edouard J. Claes’s The Flight from Belgium, 1914 (fig. 5) is one of the paintings in the collection that aligns most clearly with the representation of refugees on the cover as a shadowed and wounded parade. In fact, it is one of the only paintings in the whole collection that shows refugees at all. Given that Claes originated the idea to create Belgian Art in Exile, his alignment with its themes is unsurprising. More surprising is that The Flight from Belgium, 1914 was not solely used for this purpose. It also appeared in the May 1916 issue of The International Socialist Review, attached to an article by Camille David about the experiences of Belgian workers.[46] This positions The Flight from Belgium, 1914 very differently than Claes’s own status, as the Secretary of the League of Belgian Artists, would imply. In Belgian Art in Exile, these people, men, and boys leading the way, pulling the elderly and leading women and children along behind them, could be anyone. When situated in the International Socialist Review, these people implicitly become workers.

The Belgian refugee experience was closely linked to questions of labour. In particular, many refugees, like the employees at the Pelabon factory along the Thames, were munitions workers; by the end of January 1918, 32 200 Belgian refugees had been approved for munitions work.[47] Belgian refugees were often understood as a potential labour resource, with offers of asylum contingent on work coming from places as far afield as South Africa, Australia, and Chile.[48] Conscripted soldiers who were “unfit for frontline service” were also used as laborers, particularly at the Belgian closed community/factory in Elisabethville.[49] Thus, for many Belgian refugees, the ability to work become closely tied to their experience in England, defining what they did, where they lived, and even their ability to be in the country at all.

            The Flight from Belgium, 1914 is a painting whose meaning can be easily altered by its context. In Belgian Art in Exile, it seems to represent refugees as the collection does: “…one-half of a nation… [which] now wanders along the highways of Europe…. slaughtered by thousands, cold and hung[ry].”[50] Contextualized another way, in the International Socialist Review, it instead focuses on the strength and perseverance of Belgians as laborers. Both ideas contain truth, and both are clearly targeted at the audiences of the respective publications.

Chapels of the Church of St. Peter, Louvain

Figure 6 Alfred Delaunois, Chapelles de l’Eglise St. Pierre, Louvain / Chapels of the Church of St. Peter, Louvain, in Belgian Art in Exile.

            Like The Flight from Belgium, 1914, Chapels of the Church of St. Peter, Louvain (fig. 6), has a strong connection to the cover-image Mater Dolorosa Belgia. However, rather than being connected to its portrayal of refugees, Chapels instead connects to what is a background image in Mater Dolorosa Belgia: the destroyed church. Alfred Delaunois, the painter of Chapels, was noted for his paintings of churches.[51] What sets this apart from his many others is a small parenthetical appended to the English title of the painting: “destroyed”.[52]

            If Belgian refugees were, for the British government, an effective tool to add a moral dimension to the First World War as a conflict against ‘savage’ Germans, they were rivalled in their symbolic power by the town of Louvain. The physical destruction of the town – particularly of its historic architecture – and the atrocities perpetuated against civilians there gained infamy in England. Prime Minister Asquith compared it to the Thirty Years War, and the Daily Mail called it the “Holocaust of Louvain.”[53] These acts began a narrative of the war in which Germans were morally bankrupt and cultural barbaric, as can be seen in the introduction to Belgian Art in Exile. Many of these narratives were written by non-Belgians, as was to be expected, but refugees also participated in making them. Upon arriving in England, refugees were often questioned “for dramatic stories” of German violence, which served as the basis for the reporting done by the British Committee of Enquiry into Alleged German Atrocities (Bryce Commission) which in turn provided propaganda about German violence, particularly for American audiences.[54] With the addition of a simple parenthetical to his title, Alfred Delanois becomes one of these Belgian refugees building the tragic symbolic power of Louvain. He is, however, more than that; Delanois was himself from Louvain.

            Out of 8928 houses in Louvain in 1914, 1120 were destroyed, almost all of them by fire, which also engulfed St. Peter’s Church, an important example of Brabant Gothic architecture.[55] Though in fact this church does still exist, the version of it in Delanois’s image does not. His decision to show the church as it was further highlights the angle of cultural barbarism, portraying the beauty and leaving the destruction up to the imagination of the viewer. Delanois had previously painted the destruction of Louvain (fig. 7) in detail. According to the Museum Leuven, Delanois painted this earlier work to document the events he personally witnessed.[56] In a sense, his choice not to portray the destruction in Chapels is also an act of documentation, not of the act of destruction but of what was destroyed, which he as a painter of churches was intimately familiar with. Chapels reflects the loss and violence that ultimately caused its creator to become a refugee, without ever showing it.

Figure 7 Alfred Delaunois, La Destruction de Louvain en 1914 [the Destruction of Louvain in 1914] in “Decouvrez la Collection ‘Impressionant,’” Museum Leuven.


            Alfred Delanois’s Chapels shows that the propagandistic elements of texts surrounding Belgian refugees in England, those targeted at English audiences, were not mutually exclusive with refugees recounting their own experiences. Belgian Art in Exile provides a cross-section of what Belgian refugee artists were thinking about and doing during their time in England. Some, like Pierre Paulus in The Thames (London) can be read as engaging with the physical experience of arriving in England, while others reveal the artist’s engagement with other facets of daily living, as does the connection between Edouard J. Claes’s The Flight from Belgium, 1914 and the role of labour in the Belgian refugee experience.

            This is not an unbiased sampling; these pieces were intentionally curated, with the paratexts provided by the collection’s creators showing their strong focus on themes such as religion, patriotism, militarism and anti-Germanism. Many Belgian refugees would have been less focused on these themes in their day-to-day life than they were on other issues, particularly questions of labour. Belgian Art in Exile is not a representative sampling of Belgian refugee identity either; in addition to the class bias towards the elite, a plurality of contributors to this collection are from Brussels, which was the case for less than a third of Belgian refugees in England overall. [57] However, it is not entirely unexpected that the narratives of refugees – indeed, of any group – would be recorded in a way that privileges the privileged. After all, this was the group with access to the structures of publishing.

With that kept in mind, Belgian Art in Exile remains an interesting and valuable lens through which to explore Belgian refugee experiences in England, especially given the extent to which most of the scholarship on this subject has excluded any Belgian perspective. The reality shown here is that Belgian refugees were telling their own stories, were curating those stories to become part of the narrative of refugees that had become entwined with British propaganda and were using those curated stories to participate in fundraising that was in and of itself an act of patriotism linked to their refugee identity. A more thorough exploration of refugee-made sources in the scholarship would illuminate aspects of the Belgian and British experience of the First World War that are currently little understood. The current focus on silence, rather than on identifying places where refugees did act with agency and speak about their experiences, is a tragedy in urgent need of remedy.


[1] “‘Brave Little Belgium’ Arrives in Huddersfield… Voluntary Action, Local Politics and the History of International Relief Work,” Immigrants & Minorities 34, no. 2 (2016): 133,

[2] Hannah Ewence, “Bridging the Gap Between “War” and “Peace”: The Case of Belgian Refugees in Britain,” in Minorities and the First World War: From War to Peace, eds. by Hannah Ewence and Tim Grady, (Palgrave Macmillan UK, 2017), 89.

[3] Peter Cahalan, Belgian Refugee Relief in England during the Great War, (New York and London: Garland, 1982), 388 ; Ewence, “Bridging the Gap,” 89.

[4] Hannah Ewence refers to scholarship on the subject of “rescuing this episode… from oblivion.” Ewence, “Bridging the Gap,” 90.

[5] Gill, “‘Brave Little Belgium’,” 132.,

[6] Ewence, “Bridging the Gap,” 107.

[7] Jenkinson erroneously lists the title of Cahalan’s doctoral thesis, rather than the published book on the same subject. Jacqueline Jenkinson, “Soon Gone, Long Forgotten: Uncovering British Responses to Belgian Refugees during the First World War,” Immigrants & Minorities 34, no. 2 (May 3, 2016): 104,

[8] Cahalan, Belgian Refugee Relief, 179.

[9] Cahalan, Belgian Refugee Relief, 92, 231

[10] Cahalan, Belgian Refugee Relief, 78.

[11] Jenkinson, “Soon Gone, Long Forgotten,” 106.

[12] Cahalan, Belgian Refugee Relief, 126.

[13] Cahalan, Belgian Refugee Relief, 313.

[14] Cahalan, Belgian Refugee Relief, 31, 315.

[15] Cahalan, Belgian Refugee Relief, 314-315.

[16] Given the listed members, this refers to the Académie royale des beaux-arts de Bruxelles [the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Brussels], an influential art school with a history dating to the 18th century and royal patronage. Belgian Art in Exile: A Representative Gallery of Modern Belgian Art, La Ligue des Artistes Belges / The League of Belgian Artists, (London: Colour, 1916) i.

[17] Cahalan, Belgian Refugee Relief, 176.

[18] While Vendôme and Napoléon are French titles, both women were members of the Belgian royal family.

[19] Belgian Art in Exile, 1.

[20] Belgian Art in Exile, “Au Lecteur.”

[21] Carien Kremer, “Frank Brangwyn’s ‘Mater Dolorosa Belgica,’” Art UK, 4 June 2014,

[22] Cahalan, Belgian Refugee Relief, 195.

[23] Christophe Declercq and Helen Baker, “The Pelabon Munitions Works and the Belgian Village on the Thames: Community and Forgetfulness in Outer-Metropolitan Suburbs,” Immigrants & Minorities 34, no. 2 (2016): 156,

[24] Belgian Art in Exile, “Advertisements.”

[25] Jean Meganck, “Croquis et Silhouettes: Le ‘Plaisir’ d’aller a Newcastle,” Birtley Echo (Elisabethville, UK), 24 November 1917.

[26] Cahalan, Belgian Refugee Relief, 103.

[27] Declercq and Baker, “The Pelabon Munitions Works,” 157.

[28] Gill, ‘Brave Little Belgium,’” 139.

[29] Ewence, “Bridging the Gap,” 93.

[30] Jenkinson, “Soon Gone, Long Forgotten,” 106.

[31] Belgian Art in Exile, 2.

[32] Belgian Art in Exile, 2-3.

[33] Cole, Brendan. Painter-Poet-Polemicist-Patriot: Jean Delville and the Great War, 1914-1918, (, draft manuscript, accessed 18 December 2022), 20,

[34] Belgian Art in Exile, 3.

[35] Belgian Art in Exile, 10.

[36] Belgian Art in Exile, 13.

[37] Unlike the artists, who retained the art they had made, Marcel Wyseur sold his poem to the collection. This is known because Wyseur’s poem was later cited with the permission of Colour, the magazine printing the collection, rather than Wyseur himself. Edith Cowell, “The Belgians at Home and In Exile.” The Month 128, no. 625 (July 1916): 22.

[38] Declercq and Baker, “The Pelabon Munitions Works,” 157 ; Daniel Laqua,“Belgian Exiles, the British and the Great War: the Birtley Belgians of Elisabethville,” Immigrants and Minorities 34 no. 2 (2016): 119.

[39] These are Albert Baerstoen’s Low Tide on the Thames and Emile Claus’s Waterloo Bridge. Claus was a member of the committee responsible for Belgian Art in Exile. Martin Hopkinson, “Belgian Prints in Britain During World War I.” Print Quarterly 33, no. 4 (2016): 417, 422,

[40] Pierre Paulus, The Thames, 1914-1915, oil on canvas, 76.1 x 63.4 cm (30 in x 25 in),National Museum Wales, Cardiff, United Kingdom,

[41] Declercq and Baker, “The Pelabon Munitions Works,” 160.

[42] Cahalan, Belgian Refugee Relief, 201.

[43] Declercq and Baker, “The Pelabon Munitions Works,” 161.

[44] Belgian Art in Exile, 3.

[45] Declercq and Baker, “The Pelabon Munitions Works,” 156.

[46] Camille David, “The Exiled Belgian Workers in England During the War,” The International Socialist Review 16, no. 11 (May 1916): 666.

[47] Cahalan, Belgian Refugee Relief, 286.

[48] Cahalan, Belgian Refugee Relief, 127.

[49] Laqua,“Belgian Exiles,” 114.

[50] Belgian Art in Exile, 7.

[51] Belgian Art in Exile, 22.

[52] Belgian Art in Exile, “Chapels of the Church of St. Peter, Louvain.”

[53] Alan Kramer, Dynamic of Destruction: Culture and Mass Killing In the First World War, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 13-14,

[54] Cahalan, Belgian Refugee Relief, 113.

[55] Kramer, Dynamic of Destruction, 6, 11.

[56] “Decouvrez la Collection ‘Impressionant,’” Museum Leuven, accessed 18 December 2022,

[57] Cahalan, Belgian Refugee Relief, 231.


Belgian Art in Exile: A Representative Gallery of Modern Belgian Art. La Ligue des Artistes Belges / The League of Belgian Artists. London: Colour, 1916.

Brangwyn, Frank. Mater Dolorosa Belgica. 1915. Oil on canvas, 159 cm x 234 cm (62.6 in x 92.1 in). William Morris Gallery, London, England.

Cahalan, Peter. Belgian Refugee Relief in England during the Great War. New York and London: Garland, 1982.

Cole, Brendan. Painter-Poet-Polemicist-Patriot: Jean Delville and the Great War, 1914-1918., draft manuscript, accessed 18 December 2022.

Cowell, Edith. “The Belgians at Home and In Exile.” The Month 128, no. 625 (July 1916): 20-25.

David, Camille. “The Exiled Belgian Workers in England During the War.” The International Socialist Review 16, no. 11 (May 1916): 666-671.

Declercq, Christophe and Helen Baker. “The Pelabon Munitions Works and the Belgian Village on the Thames: Community and Forgetfulness in Outer-Metropolitan Suburbs.” .” Immigrants & Minorities 34, no. 2 (2016): 151-170.

Declercq, Christophe. “Belgian Exile Press in Britain.” In The Great War in Belgium and the Netherlands: Beyond Flanders Fields. Edited by Felicity Rash and Christophe Declercq. Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

“Decouvrez la Collection ‘Impressionant.’” Museum Leuven. Accessed 18 December 2022.

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Paulus, Pierre. The Thames. 1914-1915. Oil on canvas, 76.1 x 63.4 cm (30 in x 25 in). National Museum Wales, Cardiff, United Kingdom.

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