Trail Of The Unexpected: Memling's portraits

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The Independent Travel

The exhibition Memling And The Portrait is one of the biggest art events of the year, an international collaboration currently showing in Madrid, moving to the Groeninge Museum in Bruges from 8 June to 4 September, and then to New York.

This is the first major exhibition to concentrate only on Hans Memling's portraits, and its aim is to highlight the importance of this German artist who set a new international standard for portrait painting in the second half of the 15th century. Born in Germany, Memling spent much of his working life in Bruges, carrying out commissions for many of the city's most prominent families, and he died there in 1494.

The exhibition will contain only a small selection of works - around 30 - which will also include some from Van Eyck and Van Der Weyden to put Memling into context. The works themselves are painted on wood rather than canvas, and are all extremely fragile.

In Bruges, the exhibition will have a different focus to Madrid and New York, with the emphasis here on the difference between commissioned portraits and those in which the artist was free to paint as he chose. Although the representations of his patrons were important, it was his independent portraits, many of them enhanced by the use of plain background landscapes and interiors, which built his reputation in this genre as the foremost painter of his day.

Memling And The Portrait is the centrepiece of Corpus Bruges 05 (, an arts festival inspired by the human body. The programme will be varied, covering music, dance, drama, video and even body-building, as well as the Memling exhibition, and there will be events taking place all over the city. Corpus Bruges 05 runs from 7 May until 11 September.

The Groeninge Museum is at Dijver 12, Bruges (00 32 50 44 87 11; It opens 9.30am-7pm daily except Monday, and admission is €8 (£5.70), which will also cover entrance to the Memling exhibition.