1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Portaels, Jean François

PORTAELS, JEAN FRANÇOIS (1818–1895), Belgian painter, was born at Vilvorde (Brabant), in Belgium, on the 30th of April 1818. His father, a rich brewer, sent him to study in the Brussels Academy, and the director, Francois Navez, ere long received him as a pupil in his own studio. About 1841 Portaels went to Paris, where he was kindly received by Paul Delaroche. Having returned to Belgium, he carried off the Grand Prix de Rome in 1842. He then travelled through Italy, Greece, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, the Lebanon, Judaea, Spain, Hungary and Norway. On his return to Belgium in 1847 Portaels succeeded H. Vanderhaert as director of the academy at Ghent. In 1849 he married the daughter of his first master, Navez, and in 1850 settled at Brussels; but as he failed in obtaining the post of director of the academy there, and wished, nevertheless, to carry on the educational work begun by his father-in-law, he opened a private studio-school, which became of great importance in the development of Belgian art. He again made several journeys, spending some time in Morocco; he came back to Brussels in 1874, and in 1878 obtained the directorship of the academy which had so long been the object of his ambition. Portaels executed a vast number of works. Decorative paintings in the church of St Jacques-sur-Caudenberg; biblical scenes, such as “The Daughter of Sion Reviled” (in the Brussels Gallery), “ The Death of Judas,” “ The Magi travelling to Bethlehem,” “ Judith's Prayer,” and “ The Drought in Judaea ”; genre pictures, among' which are “ A Box in the Theatre at Budapest ” (Brussels Gallery), portraits of officials and of the fashionable world, Oriental scenes and, above all, pictures of fancy female figures and of exotic life. “ His works are in general full of a facile grace, of which he is perhaps too lavish,” wrote Théophile Gautier. Yet his pleasing and abundant productions as a painter do not constitute Portaels's crowning merit. The high place his name will fill in the history of contemporary Belgian art is due to his influence as a learned and clear-sighted instructor, who formed, among many others, the painters E. Wauters and E. Agneesens, the sculptor Ch. van der Stappen, and the architect Licot. He died at Brussels on the 8th of February 1895.

See E. L. de Taeye, Peintres belges contemporains; J. du Jardin, L’Art flamand.  (F. K.*)