A tribute to Raoul Servais, Belgian pioneer of animated film, with dozens of original drawings, background props, posters and even instruments the cineaste used to make his films. The Heritage Fund of the King Baudouin Foundation is organising this free exhibition to make the sizeable archive that was donated by the filmmaker accessible to future generations. At the BELvue Museum from 24 September.
High resolution photographic material can be found at this link: https://images.kbs-frb.be/hLDfwRxYBG.
Raoul Servais (b. 1928, Ostend) is one of the most innovative Belgian filmmakers of the twentieth century. Throughout his career, the self-taught pioneer of animated film in Belgium has been on an experimental quest to develop new techniques."I’ve always felt the need to experiment, to use different kinds of techniques to tell a story", explains Raoul Servais. This has resulted in ‘Servaisgraphy’, for example: a method that blends live action with hand-drawn backgrounds. "I invented ‘Servaisgraphy’: a system to transfer live action scenes with actors onto sheets of cellophane and colourise them much like cartoon figures. The technique also allowed me to create backgrounds of significantly higher quality. Nocturnal Butterflies, a short film inspired by the work of painter Paul Delvaux, was made using Servaisgraphy."
With an oeuvre spanning 16 animated short films as well as one feature film, Raoul Servais is a source of inspiration for animated filmmakers across the world. His creations are often politically or socially conscious: each film’s unique graphic style is carefully selected to emphasise its underlying message. The filmmaker has won more than 60 international awards at countless film festivals, including the Palme d’Or in Cannes for his surrealist work Harpya(1979) – the first time a Belgian film had ever received this honour.
A donation to future generations
In late 2019, Servais donated a large selection of his personal archive to the King Baudouin Foundation, to preserve his archive’s contents and make it available to the general public. The resulting collection contains more than 200 pieces including graphic work, animation cels (colourised illustrations on transparent sheets of cellulose acetate, used to produce cartoons), hand-drawn backgrounds, photographs and posters, all with a link to films including Taxandria and Harpya, or Nocturnal Butterflies, Sirene, Pegasus and Operation X-70. Teaching the younger generation and passing on his knowledge has always been important to Servais, who founded Europe’s first-ever Animation Film Programme at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts (modern-day KASK) in Ghent. With his donation to the Foundation, the filmmaker hopes to perpetually inspire and teach future generations.
The exhibition at BELvue and its associated publication are an opening initiative by the King Baudouin Foundation to make the heritage and graphic oeuvre of this living legend of the silver screen accessible to the public. The exhibition will later travel to several international venues.
Raoul Servais: “I’m both relieved and happy to have found a suitable solution to ensure the future of my work. The King Baudouin Foundation is committed to it being well looked after and ensuring that its spirit is kept alive, together with appropriate partners. This exhibition at the BELvue Museum and the accompanying publication are already proof of this. I am also delighted that the exhibition will be seen elsewhere and that initial contacts have already been established , notably in Canada.”
The world of Raoul Servais
François Schuiten – one of Belgium’s most renowned cartoonists and Servais’s right-hand man during the making of Taxandria (1994) – has curated this exhibition. As Schuiten was in charge of Taxandria’s graphic concept and backgrounds, he understands the world of the film and Raoul Servais’s wider oeuvre like no other.
The exhibition sheds light on Raoul Servais as an individual and his relationship with the city of Ostend; the filmmaker’s artistic process and search for new techniques; his love for the arts, surrealism and the work of Paul Delvaux; and the themes his films have focused on. The opening of the exhibition will coincide with the release of a new short film by Servais, created in collaboration with Rudy Pinceel. Visitors to the BELvue will be treated to a sneak preview of preparatory sketches and scenes from this latest film, Der Lange Kerl.
The exhibition is a joint project with the raoulservaiscollection, the Raoul Servais Association and CINEMATEK (the Royal Belgian Film Archive). It will also be accessible online, as a virtual tour.
In the attached press kit (in the left-hand margin, under 'Additional information') you will find more information about the exhibition, high-resolution photographic material with captions and copyrights, and an interview with François Schuiten, who talks about his relationship with the artist and the exhibition.
‘Raoul Servais. A world between magic and realism’
BELvue Museum, Place des Palais 7, 1000 Brussels
From 24 September 2021 to 6 March 2022
The information in the exhibition will be displayed in English, French and Dutch. The free audio guide, which can be downloaded online, and the virtual tour, will also be available in these three languages.
Guided tours can be arranged for groups and schools.