Name Isabelle Borchgrave
Books My Venetian Sketchbook
|Born 1946Brussels, Belgium|
Education Centre des Arts Decoratifs, Brussels, Belgium. Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium
Known for painting, paper sculpture, installation art, collage
Artwork Tulip Journal I, Tulip Journal III, Tulip Journal II
Opening Conversation with Isabelle de Borchgrave
Isabelle Jacobs by marriage, Countess de Borchgrave d'Altena (born 1946) is a prominent Belgian artist and sculptor, best known for her colorful paintings and intricately painted paper sculptures. She is married to Werner, count de Borchgrave d'Altena.
- Opening Conversation with Isabelle de Borchgrave
- 2013 belgique bruxelles isabelle de borchgrave et fortuny un monde de papier
- Early life
- Personal life
- Museum exhibitions
2013 belgique bruxelles isabelle de borchgrave et fortuny un monde de papier
Countess Isabelle de Borchgrave d'Altena was born in Brussels, Belgium in 1946. Since early childhood, she had a passion for drawing. Pencils were her first toys, and she made drawings on everything in sight, including the walls and floor of her room. She began her studies at age 14 at the Centre des Arts Décoratifs, and, later – at Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, where her days were filled with drawing still-lifes and form models. De Borchgrave worked in advertising for less than a year after she had finished studying, and then made clothes for her friends before branching out into interior design. She later established her own studio, designing dresses, scarves, jewelry and accessories. In particular, de Borchgrave specialized in designing fabrics.
Following a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1994, Isabelle dreamed up paper costumes. While keeping her brushes in hand and her paintings in mind, she worked on four big collections, all in paper and trompe-l'œil, each of which set the scene for a very different world. "Papiers à la Mode" (Paper in Fashion), the first, was a collaborative effort with the renowned Canadian costume designer Rita Brown and took a fresh look at 300 years of fashion history, from Elizabeth I to Coco Chanel. "Mariano Fortuny" dealt with the world of 19th century Venice, paying particular attention to the elegant plissés and veils. "I Medici" was a trompe-l'œil installation of famous Florentine figures in their ceremonial dress, who made the Renaissance a luminous period, with intricate gold-braiding, pearls, silk and velvet. Then came Sergei Diaghilev's "Ballets Russes", that paid tribute to the illustrious impresario, as well as the artists Pablo Picasso, Léon Bakst and Henri Matisse, all of whom designed costumes for this ballet company.
A major turning point in de Borchgrave's career came in 1998 with her exhibition, "Papier à la Mode", at Musée de l'Impression sur Etoffes in Mulhouse, France. It consisted of thirty lifesize outfits made of painted paper. "Papier à la Mode", which The New York Times called "pure delight", toured France, the United States and Asia. As it traveled, de Borchgrave expanded it - with costumes from the wardrobes of Queen Elizabeth I of England, Marie Antoinette and the Empress Eugénie, consort of Napoleon III, while it was in Japan, and adding Ottoman kaftans in Turkey.
Over the years, de Borchgrave's paper creations have ranged from an elaborate headdress in the shape of a caravel in full sail, worn by Marie Antoinette, to some oversized roses for John Galliano's haute couture show for Christian Dior, to a subtle, white on white wedding dress train worn by HRH Princess Annemarie of Bourbon-Parma at her wedding with Prince Carlos of Bourbon-Parma. She was also commissioned to recreate Jackie Kennedy's wedding gown for the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston. "It was dusty and fragile, wrapped up in black tissue paper", de Borchgrave recalls in a story in Daily Telegraph. "The silk was dead, you couldn't touch it any more. It was preserved like a relic. The original is dead, but the paper one brings it to life again." In 2004, de Borchgrave designed and made a delicate, painted paper dress for Queen Fabiola of Belgium, which the queen wore to the wedding of Prince Felipe of Spain in Madrid.
In 2008, a colorful installation of over 80 pieces by Isabelle de Borchgrave opened at the Fortuny Museum in Venice, Italy. Entitled "Un mondo di carta - Isabelle de Borchgrave incontra Mariano Fortuny", ("A World of Paper: Isabelle de Borchgrave Meets Mariano Fortuny") the exhibition was spread over the historic palazzo's three floors and included versions of Fortuny's classic, finely pleated "Delphos" dress, as well as robes, accessories, shoes, boots, a stage set, an oriental tent, rugs, cushions, a lute and antique swords, often intermingling with the master's own works and collection, and all made of painted paper. Reviewing the installation for The World of Interiors magazine, author Barbara Stoeltie wrote, "Isabelle de Borchgrave freely shares her adventures in beauty – a beauty that, beneath her gaze and from her fingertips, pours out unstintingly. Tubes of paint, boxes of pastels, sheaves of brushes of all sizes and all kinds of glue gleefully take part in her marvellous game. The work itself rejoices."
In 2008, a lavishly illustrated hardcover monograph "Paper Illusions: The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave" was published in the United States by Abrams. Within weeks, the book was declared by The New York Times to be one of "the best gift books of 2008" and "among the most unusual and fascinating... seen in a long time." The monograph was authored by the well-known writer and photographer duo, Barbara and René Stoeltie, with an introduction of Hubert de Givenchy, who said of de Borchgrave, "Isabelle is one of a kind; with a single sheet of paper, she creates the most beautiful dresses, the finest costumes, or, simply, a chain of white roses...Whether it becomes a shoe, a hat or a few strings of pearls, [Isabelle plays] with paper as a virtuoso plays an instrument."
In February 2011, a large scale installation entitled "Pulp Fashion: The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave" opened to great acclaim at the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco. The retrospective exhibition, described by the museum officials as "trompe l'oeil masterpieces," is presented in six sections: "The Artist's Studio" is recreated to provide insight into de Borchgrave's creative process; "In White" showcases the purity of craftsmanship in a selection of nine dresses devoid of color; "Papiers à la Mode" features iconic looks from key periods in fashion history, and legendary designers such as Charles Worth, Paul Poiret and Coco Chanel are represented by signature pieces; "Fortuny" is an immersive environment created under a paper tent populated by recreations of Fortuny's famed pleated and draped gowns; "The Medici" is the artist's most extravagant series, with elaborate velvets, needlework lace, ropes of pearls, and intricate coiffures transformed into paper sculptures, and "Inspiration"— de Borchgrave's latest body of work, inspired by four paintings from the Legion of Honor's collection that she admired during her visit to the museum in the summer of 2010. The paintings were: Massimo Stanzione, Woman in Neapolitan Costume, ca. 1635, Konstantin Makovsky, The Russian Bride's Attire, 1889, Jacob Ferdinand Voet, Anna Caffarelli Minuttiba, ca. 1675, and Anthony van Dyck, Marie Claire de Cory and Child, 1634. Quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle, John Buchanan, the Museum's director, called the exhibition "pure poetry". "This is the coolest thing I've ever seen", he added. The installation, which Isabelle de Borchgrave called "a wink at history", will be on view through 5 June 2011.
In de Borchgrave's art, the starting point is almost always the same: sheets of paper one meter by one and a half meters (3.3 feet by 4.9 feet), which she sets to work on with her brushes and paints on an enormous linen-covered table in her studio in Brussels. "Her colors, reports The New York Times, "are very much inspired by her travels: reds from the roses of Turkey, earth hues from Egypt, blues from Greece...Borchgrave produces astonishing effects of scintillating color, weight, transparency and texture. Her renderings of diaphanous gauzes are especially astonishing."
Isabelle de Borchgrave's work has been widely collected by major museums and private collectors worldwide. She is represented in the U.S. by the Serge Sorokko Gallery.
Isabelle Jacobs married Count Werner de Borchgrave d'Altena in 1975. They have two children – a son ( Nicolas ) and a daughter ( Pauline). The couple resides in Brussels, Belgium.