Michaël Borremans

Cleveland Museum of Art

Near the end of his life, Baudelaire—bored and besieged by creditors—made a disastrous trip to Brussels. In 1865, he wrote to a friend: “This highly detestable Belgium has already done me a great service. It’s taught me to do without everything. . . . I’ve become sensible because of the impossibility of finding satisfaction.” Similarly, Belgian artist Michaël Borremans’s determinedly dour drawings show how much artists may achieve without finding, or offering, fulfillment or resolution.

Mounted on walls and tables in the Cleveland Museum of Art, the sixty-three small, detailed drawings in this exhibition had the appearance of old-master sketches. Borremans works in, among other media, pencil, ink, watercolor, ballpoint pen, varnish, and gouache on stamped envelopes, torn-off book covers, the backsides of photographs, and other discarded everyday materials. Sometimes he adds a touch of red,

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