2009 saw the inauguration of a new museum dedicated to the great master of "la bande dessinée" himself, Hergé.
Situated thirty kilometres outside of Brussels, in the modern new town of Louvain-la-Neuve, the museum is the ultimate project honouring Hergé by Studios Hergé, the foundation that is presided over by the artist's wife at the time of his death, Fanny Rodwell.
The museum is made up of eight exhibition rooms, and seven of these are devoted to the work of Hergé - not just those famous "Adventures of Tintin", but the many other characters he created, like Quick & Flupke, Jo, Zette and Jocko, the immensely successful magazines he oversaw, advertising and film posters. All the material for these exhibits come directly from the massive archives of Studios Hergé, who owns in the region of 80 percent of the artist's prolific output throughout his long life, somewhere between 10-15,000 pieces. And make no mistake; it is fortunate that the collection is so large, because this "permanent" exhibition will actually have to be completely changed three times a year, as four months is the limit that these fragile drawings, ink illustrations and gouaches can be exposed to the light without risking serious damage.
Hergé was born as Georges Rémi in Brussels just over a century ago, and at the age of 17 he was already publishing his own comic strip drawings, but signed under the pseudonym Hergé - RG, the French pronunciation of his initials reversed. He founded his own comic strip magazine, Le Petit Vingtième in 1928, and a year later, this was where Tintin et Milou - Tintin and Snowy - first appeared. The famous books, published in their millions all over the world in dozens of different languages, began to be published by Casterman in 1934, and so the great adventures of Tintin began: to China for "The Blue Lotus", to Moscow for "In The Land of the Soviets", followed by travels across the globe to the Congo, Tibet, Egypt, America, culminating in the futuristic "Destination Moon". What many of his faithful readers never realised was that the genius behind these incredible, exotic voyages rarely left his home in Brussels. And visitors who come to the Hergé Museum will hopefully discover just what were the influences and ideas that inspired these fantastic comic strips. Hergé created what is known as "la ligne claire", an overriding philosophy behind his all comic strip creations - clear, uncomplicated drawings, a simple, straightforward storyline, strong basic colours. This has remained the philosophy of the Studios Hergé today, and will be the all-important vision behind the Hergé Museum itself.
It is very important to understand that this is not a "Tintin Museum", but an "Hergé Museum", and the curators have a very original project in mind for one of the future temporary exhibitions. Apart from drawing and illustrating, Hergé, especially in the later part of his life, was also a painter in his own right, and Studios Hergé have a collection of his works that is virtually unknown to the rest of the world. And Hergé was not just a painter, but a collector of paintings too. His great interest was twentieth century art, and surprisingly it was abstract, rather than figurative work, that he bought most. Miró was one of his favourites, and he was one of the Spanish's artist's early buyers before he become famous. And in Hergé's studio on Avenue Louise, preserved today as it was when he last worked there, are canvases by Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein on the wall. So who knows, in the future, visitors will be taking the quick train ride out of Brussels not just to see Hergé's unforgettable drawings and illustrations of Tintin, The Thompson Twins, Captain Haddock and of course, Snowy, but also an intriguing temporary exhibition that may be called: "Hergé - Painter and Collector".
First Sunday free admission: the Hergé Museum now opens for free the first Sunday of every month. The museum has joined several Belgian museums offering a free admission one Sunday per month as part of a program organised by the "Arts & Publics" Association.
Herge Museum www.museeherge.com