While painting may be a question of technique, it should first and foremost be a source of pleasure. You have to look long and carefully if you are to re-invent; you have to do a lot of drawings before you can master the line. When technique has finally been totally absorbed, then and only then, does it leave room for free gesture, for pure creation and ultimately for joy. – Isabelle de Borchgrave
Born in 1946 in Etterbeek, Isabelle de Borchgrave is a prominent Belgian artist and sculptor, best known for her colorful paintings and intricately painted paper sculptures.
De Borchgrave started her studies age 14 at the Centre des Arts Décoratifs before graduating from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels. Soon after graduating, she set up her own studio focusing on fashion and interior design, the artist regularly using the fabrics she worked on as a canvas for her art.
A major turning point in the artist’s career came in 1994, when de Borchgrave began designing elaborate paper costumes. Combining her love of fashion, history and painting, she worked on four major collections in her now famous trompe-l’oeil.
The first collection entitled ‘Papiers à la Mode’, a collaboration between the artist and Canadian costume designer Rita brown, covered 300 years of fashion history from Elizabeth I to Coco Chanel.
As the collection traveled across the world from 1998 to 2008, the artist expanded the collection, creating and adding more costumes from the wardrobes of Elizabeth I, Marie Antoinette, the Empress Eugenie, the consort of Napoleon III, or the Ottoman kaftans.
From the Fashion Institute in New York and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, to the Flanders Fashion Institute in Antwerp and the Museum of Fine Arts in San Francisco, the traveling exhibition drew in hundreds of thousands of museum-goers over a decade.
The second collection, ‘Mariano Fortuny’, delved into 19th Century Venice with a particular focus on elaborate patterns, finely pleated robes and precious veils, damasks and silks. Then followed ‘I Medici’, a trompe-l'œil installation of famous Florentine figures in the ceremonial dresses of the Renaissance, with intricate gold braiding, pearls and velvet. Finally, ‘Ballets Russes’ where de Borchgrave paid tribute to Sergei Diaghilev, Pablo Picasso, Léon Bakst, and Henri Matisse, who all designed for the famous ballet company.
Although now renown for her paper creations, Isabelle de Borchgrave never ceased painting and sculpting. Alternating from canvas to paper, and paper to bronze, her colorful paintings and delicate sculptures have been shown in solo and group exhibitions in Belgium, Switzerland, France, Japan, Brazil, the U.K. and the U.S. from 1979 to this day.
Isabelle de Borchgrave has also collaborated as a fashion and interior designer with the likes of Comme des Garçons, Christian Dior, Hermès, Villeroy & Boch, Pierre Frey, Lanvin, or Caspari to name a few.
The artist lives and works in Brussels, Belgium.