Antoine Carte was born on December 8th 1886 in Mons. His father is a master carpenter and, on all occasions, the painter will recall that it is to this craftsman father that he owes his taste for 'beautiful work', for a job well done and for beautiful materials.

In 1897, at the age of 11, he left school and enrolled at the Academy of Mons, where he attended classes with Antoine Boulard and Emile Motte, who introduced him to easel painting, and Arthur Claus, who taught him the technique of wood and marble. Very quickly, his teachers noticed his talent for drawing...

In 1902, for financial reasons, he was forced to abandon the daytime classes for the evening ones, which enabled him to earn a living by working as an apprentice for a neighbour, a painter-decorator: François Depooter, father of the painter Frans Depooter. His work in a painting and decorating company brought him into contact with various craftsmen - which enabled him to acquire a solid foundation in many techniques.

It was at the Academy of Mons, during Emile Motte's course, that Antoine Carte, who chose the pseudonym of Anto Carte at the age of 20, met the man who was to become his most faithful friend: Louis Buisseret; he also rubs shoulders with Victor Regnart, Alfred Moitroux, Arsène Detry and Louis Martin, with whom he maintains friendly relations... But it is Buisseret who reassures him and pushes him to believe in himself and to exhibit his works: Anto Carte is indeed an anxious person who is always dissatisfied with his work!

He then obtains a grant which allows him, until 1910, to follow courses at the Academy of Fine Arts of Brussels which Louis Buisseret also attends. Their teachers: Constant Montald, Emile Fabry and Jean Delville are idealists impregnated with symbolism who transmit to them the sense of the colour, the drawing and the composition.

In 1912, Anto Carte discovered and illustrated Verhaeren's poems, encouraged by Jean Delville. Verhaeren is one of the great encounters of Carte's life and he will never stop talking about it. His enthusiasm for the poet is such that it will determine the choice of the subjects of his works of the first period (the fisherman, the gravedigger, the water ferryman).

Anto Carte's works exude a poetic and fantastic atmosphere. The colours are vivid and Carte explains that in order to intensify the luminosity, he scratches the different layers of paint with a knife.

Between 1910 and 1913, eager to open up to the Parisian avant-garde and having obtained a grant thanks to Montald, he went to Paris, to the Cavaille, Col, and Léon Bakst studios, which themselves worked for Diaghilev's Russian ballets. Anto Carte is fascinated by Bakst's work and this influence will be felt later on in the costume projects he will design for the dancer Akarova. Although Anto Carte acquired valuable knowledge of the arts of costume and decoration, this did not detract from the natural simplicity of his pictorial work.

His first serious contact with Italian painting of the 15th and 16th centuries, which taught him so much about composition and style, was in the Louvre, which he frequented assiduously. Moreover, he retained little of Impressionism, whose last fires he saw, nor of the Fauvists, whose first roars he heard, and before him, indifferent, Symbolism (to which his Brussels masters sacrificed) was collapsing.

In 1914, we discover Anto Carte working in the sinister shadow of the enemy occupation; he keeps a small studio 'le plancher à sonnette', where not only those who knew the password entered. Imprisoned for a time and released under supervision, he then carried out domestic decorative work, without ever ceasing to paint 'for himself'. At this time, he had many supporters, in particular Canon Puissant, who introduced him to ceramics. Anto Carte's already skilful hands were thus introduced to the handling of clay, an additional string to his bow.

After the war, he will illustrate other writings such as Maeterlinck's "Massacre of the Innocents" or Marcel Wolfers' "Writings of November".

In 1917, encouraged by Louis Buisseret, he took part in the Salon de l'Illustration in Brussels, which later took him to Pittsburgh (USA).

In 1923 he was part of the group of Belgian Ymagiers who exhibited in Paris at the Salon d'Automne. Among his teammates, he met his elder brothers in Brueghelism Valerius de Saedeleer and Gustave Van de Woestyne. It is therefore likely that Anto Carte had a friendly relationship with Gustave Van de Woestijne and was influenced by him.

He came into contact with the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh in the United States, where a major retrospective exhibition was held in 1925: he exhibited 60 works and sold them all - which ensured him great success with the American public. As he became a member of the jury of this institute, before the 1940s, he often travelled to the United States. At the same time, he won the first gold medal at the exhibition of decorative arts in Paris. His numerous trips to Italy, to Florence among others, made him discover the art of fresco.

With his friends Louis Buisseret and Léon Eeckman, he founded the "Nervia" group in 1928, which was sometimes presented as the Walloon counterpart of the Laethem St Martin school in Flanders. Like the XX group, Nervia wanted to encourage the new generation of artists such as Frans Depooter, Léon Devos, Léon Navez, Taf Wallet and Jean Winance, who were joined by the older artists Rodolphe Strebelle and Pierre Paulus.

This movement is committed to the continuity of an intimate human art tinged with Italian art and symbolism - something for which they will be reproached during the Second World War, because they seem to be close to the German order, whereas this is not the case: the 'Nerviens' only express what they feel, and abstraction does not suit them.

Anto carte is the soul of the group. He is the 'Master' who, very proud of his fame, knows how to be demanding, even authoritarian, towards his fellow students: he likes to direct the work of the youngsters. In a letter to Frans Depooter, he advised him to abandon classical and academic painting so that his own qualities could be expressed.

In 1929 Henri Van de Velde, founder and first director of the Cambre, offered Anto Carte the position of director of the decorative and monumental art studio, a position he left in 1932 (probably because he did not agree with his director's ideas). He was then appointed professor of decorative and monumental art at the Brussels Academy.

Between 1935 and 1939, he undertook numerous commissions for stained-glass windows which he produced with the glassmaker F.P. Colpaert, in particular the stained-glass window for the church of Saint Philippe de Neri at the Abbey of La Cambre. It is quite natural that Colpaert called upon Carte to create stained glass windows, since it was the latter who had taught him the art of stained glass in 1920. At that time, even if the correspondence relates small disputes about techniques or costs, they did excellent work together.

In 1938, the Nervia group dissolved, mainly due to a misunderstanding with Louis Buisseret about the placement of works in an exhibition.
He then created the Way of the Cross for the church of La Cambre (which he completed in 1945). Anto Carte did not seek innovation in this work but rather a harmonious and well-made work.

The war 40-45 and the German occupation will surprise Anto Carte who finished then the stained glasses and the way of cross of Note Dame de la Cambre, but will not leave any trace in his work (contrary to the war 14-18 with the destroyed village), because indifferent to the world conflict he withdraws in his house of Wauthier Braine where he finds calms and peace.

In 1949 he paints the great hall of Orval where he had already done the frescoes in the chapel.

1952 inauguration of the stained glass windows in the church of Koekelberg. Carte, tired, entrusts the painter Jacques Maes with the completion of this work.

On 15 February 1954, he dies in his flat in the rue de l'Ermitage.

If we want to summarise Anto Carte's work, we can see that some of his paintings are decorative and mannerist, while others develop a sense of monumentality.

Many of his works are religiously inspired, and he often combines mysticism and everyday life. He was as impressed by his meeting with Dom Martin, a Benedictine monk who directed La Croix latine, a group of artists interested in the renewal of Christian art, as he was with Emile Verhaeren...

As we have seen, Anto Carte was a jack of all trades, a complete artist who, throughout his life, tried his hand at painting, drawing, engraving, lithography, frescoes, stained glass, ceramics, sculpture, theatre sets, illustration, tapestry, woodcarving, decoration, theatre sets, illustration, etc.

All his research shows his willingness to experiment with new techniques and disciplines. His nimble fingers took in turn the brush, the brushes, the chisel, the potter's clay, the needle and the skein of the upholsterer, the diamond of the glassmaker, the plane of the carpenter.

An artist known and recognised all over the world, from Riga to Brooklyn, via Cleveland, Mexico and Brazil, his personality nevertheless remains mysterious: sometimes he laughs and makes jokes, sometimes he becomes a fragile and depressed thinker, shunning all society. Personally, I knew him to be restless and withdrawn, but I understand better now, by looking at his life, that he was a prisoner of the image that people had of him: the jovial Walloon, the mischievous friend, the storyteller, the clown, the mime and the prankster... It's Uylenspiegel in Wallonia', said Albert Guislain, but he corrected himself: 'This is the playful, flippant card that so many people talk about without really knowing him; only Youle, his wife and his close friends - Buisseret, Eeckman, Depooter Devos Navez and Wallet - could tell us to what extent the man was ultimately a prisoner of his legend'.

Indeed, there is absolutely no evidence of this friendly banter in his art.

Françoise Eeckman
President of Les Amis d'Anto-Carte