AN wall tiles  

Around the middle of the 19th century new techniques revolutionized the English tile industry.  The same happened in Belgium.  From 1897 onwards the Manufacture de Céramiques Décoratives d’Hasselt set up a huge publicity campaign to promote the use of ceramic material in the building industry.  Together with Boch Frères in La Louvière, Helman in Sint-Agatha-Berchem and Gilliot in Hemiksem they made Belgian wall tiles world famous.

As wall tiles proved to offer a lot of practical advantages they were more and more used, certainly in the period 1905-1914.  Within the built-up city centre of Blankenberge colourful tableaux began to adorn the façades of the terraced houses.

All major factories were represented on the walls, including some from France and Germany. Floral motifs were by far the more popular, next to nature scenes with birds and seascapes.  Shopkeepers displayed big advertising posters. 

Modest little friezes, everyday street-signs or big arches and imposing tableaux, they all can be seen in Blankenberge.  Although many houses could not escape demolition, Blankenberge can still boast. a considerable number of Art Nouveau artefacts.

The importance of the wall tile heritage in Blankenberge was recognized when the most important dwellings with art nouveau wall tiles were declared protected monuments in 2003. 

Wall tile expert Mario Baeck was able to identify a large number of wall tile creations and thus contributed to opening up this unique heritage to the public. 

He summarized some of his ideas in his speech at the Art Nouveau Exhibition in Blankenberge in 2001 as follows:“I would like to emphasize here, in this forum, the importance of the rescue and preservation of this unique heritage.  Numerous examples abroad – Paris, London, Glasgow, Dresden – show that this big concentration of high quality wall tiles could represent a commercial and tourist asset.  The authorities here would be well advised to treat the few still intact ensembles of Art Nouveau architecture with the utmost care and to preserve them in situ.  If that is not possible they should be dismantled and given a place in museological surroundings.” 

For more pictures click here.