The serene and natural environment in which Meerssen is situated inspires the creation of great art. In fact, an entirely art movement emerged after the Second World War, in the Rothem oil mill along the Geul. Known as the Meerssen School, its most famous artist was Charles Eyck, whose extensive oeuvre gained international acclaim. You don't have to go far to experience Meerssen's art: it's right there on the street! You'll find sculptures and statues in the most unexpected of places, ranging in style form classical to contemporary to super-modern graffiti adorning less-than-idyllic spots, like cycling tunnels.
Meerssen was and still is an attractive place for artists to live and work. The Prix de Rome (the oldest and most prestigious prize for talented Dutch artists and architects) has been awarded to a Meerssen artist five times. Meerssen was home to Charles Eyck, Hub Levigne, Jos Tielens, Harry Koolen, and Alphons Volders after the First World War. They worked in the former oil mills of Rothem, under the guidance of Jan van Puyembroeck, who had fled Belgium. There was even talk of a 'Meerssen School'.
The municipality remained popular after war, attracting artists like Rob Stultiens, Gène Eggen, and Jos Muris. Several professional artists still live and work in the municipality to this day. In 1987, Meerssen made its mark on the world stage with the MARSNA Project, an international sculpture symposium organized in close collaboration with the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht. Twelve sculptors from the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK, Germany, and Greece were asked to create marl sculptures for the event.
Over the past three decades, the municipality has systematically installed a variety of artworks in public places, ranging from abstract shapes to identifiable figures. Wherever possible, the municipality sought out works of art that fit within the historical context, or couleur locale. In some cases there was room for more expression and the artist was given near-total artistic freedom. The list of artists in the municipality of Meerssen includes Marianne Aartsen, Appie Drielsma, Fons Bemelmans, Felix van de Beek, Paul Beckers, Gène Eggen, Piet Killaars, Godfried Pieters, Sjra Schoffelen, Xander Spronken, Wim Steins, Rob Stultiens, Marc Truijen, Louis Wierts, and Shinkichi Tajiri.
Eyck (1897-1983) was a painter, sculptor, and glass blower known as the 'Master of Meerssen'. In his lifetime he embellished dozens of altarpieces, Stations of the Cross, and frescos with his art, thereby gaining critical acclaim and respect as an artist. He also created several smaller works of art on the side, to help him earn a living. He was driven by the need to express his creativity and support himself at the same time. Charles Eyck was not the only artist who paid his bills in kind.
Graffiti artist Marcus Debie was inspired by faces, hands, and eyes when he created his 2017 graffiti mural for the Maastrichterweg cycling tunnel, more commonly known as the Angelatunnel The wall also features the poem Motorrijder ('The motorcyclist') by H.J. van Tienhoven.
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