Belle Époque architecture, Nice


The first in a series of four

It was probably the many Belle Époque buildings in Nice that prompted someone to say in 1910, This city is the most beautiful in Europe.  It makes the task of writing about it daunting — for the qualified and, like me, the unqualified.

This is a glimpse of the decorative idiom called Belle Époque, literally, the beautiful epoch.  The dates in which this style flourishes are roughly from mid-19th-century to 1925.  Elsewhere historians set the limit at 1914.  It was a time of optimism, regional peace, scientific advance, cultural innovation and input from the colonies.  The name of this flamboyant style might well have originated as people stared at the horrors of World War One.

This is the Negresco, probably the most prestigious hotel in Nice and this city has a history of hotels, with 160 by the late-19th-century.  It was designed by Niemann and built in 1912.  The cupola, a distant echo of the Renaissance dome, is characteristic.  The rounded frontage, at the corners where streets intersect, is another frequently seen aspect of the style.  These two features of the Negresco, interestingly, were not designed by Niemann but by Gustav Eiffel (see Tower).

A rounded frontage of a building in Rue du Marechal Joffre.  Note the inclusion of balconies on the rounded frontage.

A gem of a building just off Avenue Felix Faure.  I particularly liked the three-windowed balconies.

The Crédit lyonnais (no, that’s not a typo; ask the French why that “l” is small) was for me one of the most impressive buildings, together with its bold rounded frontage and columns, with glass cladding, pleasing in its simplicity.

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

March, 2019



Michel Steve : L’Architecture Belle Époque à Nice.  Demaistre, Nice. 1995.

Paul Castella : Splendeurs de Nice.  Editions Gilletta, Nice. 1991.

Wikipedia Belle Époque



My photographs







More than homage – sacred art in the 20th-century

It is sometimes said that we live in a post-Christian era.  I wonder about that.  One of the things that makes me wonder is contemporary sacred art, something that my Protestant childhood didn’t really tell me about.

The modern artist in sacred art is pressured as never before in circumstances that change at a bewildering pace.  S/he creates from anguish.  Perhaps the images of Christ from this anguish are enigmatic and strange.

This image of Christ is by the Mexican artist Sequericos.  I find it powerful though the visage has sadness.

This image of the meal at Emmaus is by the Polish artist Yugolski.  I find it quite expressionist with stylized figures.  The radiance draws the eye.

This relief image of the Last Supper done by a Greek artist in 1960 verges on abstract expression.  I find the movement prompted by the forms restless around the central figure of Christ which stands tall above the swirling lines.

Paul Klee, the Swiss-German artist, did this image of Christ the king in 1926.  I find the features delicate and the eyes, unrealistic as they are, hypnotic.

Bernard Buffet did a number of sacred images and this crucifixion scene in 1970.  It is said that the figure on the right is a self-portrait.

This image of the cricifixion by Italian artist Boudini is upsetting for me and he would probably feel, So it should be.  The traditional crucifixion scenes have held emotion.  This one screams in agony.

This delicate, even fragile image of the crucifixion is found on the altar in the chapel at Vence, in the South of France, designed by Henri Matisse.

This image of the Last Supper by Salvador Dali intrigues me in that the body of Christ is transparent and in the background you see the landscape that Dali knew as a child.

This image was also painted by Dali.  It seems to me that the lighting is electrical, judging from the shadow of the arm.  The hairstyle of the Christ figure is contemporary.  The agony of the back is for me unparalleled in the history of art.

Epstein produced this sculpture of Christ in bondage in the 1950s and it is set in the ruins of cathedral at Coventry that was bombed in the Second World War.  It is a departure from traditional images of Christ.  There is for me an ancient primitive force here, reminding me of images from central America and Africa.  I spent time looking at this figure and the experience has inspired me to do this blog.

(c) Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

March, 2019



Some of these images come from a book named “He had a face”, though I do not have the book with me at present and will add in the details at a future date.

I have had other images before computers became public and have lost the sources.


The artist is Wimmer, a German.  The year is 1951.  I find this image haunting in that, if the body is tortured, the face stands the pain.

Patterns, forms, textures from South Korea

The first in a series of two

I’ve always liked photographic  images that aspire to be abstract.  I share those that I took in South Korea.  What they actually were, I indicate at the end.

(c) Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

March, 2019


Image details

1  Seafood that jumps at you, Daeso food market

2  Wire scuplture, Jamsil, Seoul

3  Some delicacy in the universe of Korean food, Daeso foodmarket

4  The roof of Hangang World Cup Stadium, east Seoul

5  Green leaves, white snow, Daeso 

6  Mandu, the tastiest food on earth 

7  Marble wall, but goodness knows where I took it

8  Pattern on the roof of the admin offices, Bongeunsa temple, Samseong, Seoul

9 Wood patterning in shop, Myongdong, Seoul

10  Snow tracks, Daeso 


Patterns, forms, textures from South Korea

The second in a series of two

There were more photographic images that aspired to be abstract.  The details of what they appear at the end.



(c) Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

March, 2019


Image details

1  Korean cookies, dangerously tasty

2  Olympic Stadium, Jamsil 1988, east Seoul

3  Texture on pot by potter Seo Byongho, Daeso

4  Some delicacy in the universe of Korean food, Daeso foodmarket 

5  Seats at Olympic Stadium, Jamsil, east Seoul

6  Snow tracks, Daeso

7  Building and tree, Myongdong, Seoul

8  Prize-winning pot by potter Seo Byongho, Daeso 

9  Bird in field, near Daeso 






Image of Woman – Parow Art School

My visit to the Parow Art School some years ago was a revelation, one that I needed — I have been pessimistic about South Africa as a country supporting the arts.  I was told that the students were mostly of high school age.  This made what I saw the more remarkable.  I chose a theme – the image of the woman, though there were other themes and media. I have to apologize that, at the time, I did not record the names of the artists.


There was a depth in the work carried by technical skill.  These young artists were not staring at surfaces.

The work questioned  attitudes and traditional values.  It celebrated life.  These images search.  For me, if an image stirs something in me, nameless as that emotion may be, the image has done its work.

A painting about family murder


This exhibition was clearly a feather in the cap of the teachers.  Their honing of talent did a good job helping to evict my pessimism.

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

March, 2019


My photographs

My gratitude to the Parow Art School



Bernward’s Doors, Hildesheim

At Hildesheim, Lower Saxony, I was privileged to see the well-known Bernward’s Doors at the St Michael’s Church.  I must be honest, I remember almost nothing about the interior of the Church except its Romanesque arches.  It was the figures on the Doors that absorbed me and remain with me.  They are dated at 1015 a.d.

The panels on the left depict scenes from the Old Testament; the panels on the right, scenes from the New Testament.  These doors, remarkably, were cast in gunmetal with copper and lead, amongst others.  The style is said to be between Ottonian art and early Romanesque.

Adam and Eve at the Tree


Adam and Eve expelled

This art, these figures, seem removed from the Greco-Roman world and are distinct from the styles produced by Byzantine art five hundred years before.  In its context it is a new art, the art of rising Europe, with the naïvité of the world of a child.  Yet there are subtle features — the heads of these figures are disproportionate to the bodies and the eyes are large.  The latter feature would remain influential in art until Barlach in the 20th-century.

Abel with offering


God as judge



And there is drama.  Very few of these panels are, as with  later Romanesque, static portraits.  There are scenes of action —  Cain killing Abel; God expelling Adam and Eve from Paradise.  They are busy, these figures.

The Annunciation


Joseph the Child and Mary

The sacred art of the centuries to come, Gothic in particular, would become static and solemn.  But Romanesque art, where it features, intrigues us with its youthful vitality.

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

March, 2019



Wikipedia Bernward’s Doors



Doors – wikipedia

Adam and Eve – prezi

Adam and Eve’s shame – source lost

Annunciation –  flickr

Joseph, Mary and Child – Kahn Academy

God in judgement – hippostcard

Madonna and Child – mariendom Hildesheim





Xhanti Mkapama – sculptor

My friend and past colleague Charmian Plummer invited me some years ago to the inaugural exhibition at the Imibala Gallery, Somerset West, where the sculpture of Xhanti Mkapama was being exhibited.  She told me that some time before that she had met Xhanti, then unknown, who showed her his work  —  in clay, I believe.  From there began an arduous journey for the bronze casting of the clay, something that nobody, it seemed, wanted to risk financially.  Dauntless, Charmian eventually found a past student of hers who had a foundry and he was prepared to do the casting.


The rest, as they say, is history.  Xhanti Mkapama, locally-born, has advanced from strength to strength as he becomes better known in South Africa.  He achieves a realism within a certain stylization.  The female figures are elegant, swirling with vitality.  One can almost say, they enjoy themselves, these figures.


The figures of children are engaging in their play.  As with his other creations, they have an energy, a quality that characterizes the fundamental optimism that informs his work.

There was also a striking figure of an old man, which I found particularly moving.

A while before the exhibition, Xhanti was commissioned to sculpt a figure of Shaka Zulu.  His local reputation as an artist now became international.

Last year (2018), on 24th July, a statue of Nelson Mandela on the balcony at the City Hall in Cape Town, which Xhanti co-created with Barry Jackson, was unveiled.  This figure commemorates the speech that Mandela made after his 27-year incarceration and the onset of the new South Africa.

On the evening of his exhibition, Xhanti thanked Charmian warmly for the part she had played in the recognition of his work.  Those attending were moved by the details of the story which paves the way for recognizing other deserving talent.

© Will van der Walt

Les Semboules, Antibes

March, 2019


My photographs

Balcony image –

With gratitude to Charmian Plummer



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