Ronny Moortgat was born in Niel, Belgium in 1951 on the banks of the River Schelde. His fascination with the sea was engendered from a young age, sailing the tidal estuaries of the Netherlands and The Channel as a child. Moortgat’s family would also leave an enduring legacy on the artist, as he has observed: “The reason to paint maritime subjects is probably to be found with my family roots. On my mother’s side there were quite a few river barge men and my father was involved in the shipping business”
As with so many of our marine painters, an obsession with the sea was not only inculcated in childhood, it was almost a birth right. Although Moortgat’s parents would insist on his achieving a school diploma before beginning his career as a painter this clearly did little to dampen his artistic enthusiasm. Spending 6 years at art school where he engaged in the centuries-old Low Countries tradition of etching and printing alongside drawing and painting; his multifaceted talent is still evident today in his range of media from watercolours to bronzes. Trained as a technical draftsman, Ronny has since combined his own more impressionistic approach with the strictly classical. The ability to integrate the virtuosic detail of technical drawing alongside personal style is a hallmark of the best Marine Painters, conjoining the detail necessary to capture elaborate rigging and period details and at the same time generating the evocative approach to texture and lighting needed to bring such intricacy to full life through expressive brushwork. Imbuing works with meticulous historical observation while also imparting the kinetic energy of sea and sail is a balancing act that only the best marine artists can hope to undertake, and it is proof of Ronny’s skill that he consistently rises to the challenge. Put in his own words: “Alongside the rather strict classical work, I do the more impressionist approach that involves loose brushstrokes. I try to create detail and atmosphere and strive to learn from other painters by looking very closely at their work and reading all about them. The process of learning never stops as borders are constantly redefined, always trying to do better but never satisfied!”
A particular signature of Moortgat’s work seems to be his approach to colour, often employing a far more saturated palate than his contemporaries. Through his energetic blues and greens, Ronny brings an unusual degree of brightness and luminosity to his works, which has made him a particularly impressive painter of dusk and nocturne scenes, often expressed in his skilful watercolours. When combined with the strong silhouettes characteristic of his ships he is able to generate a vivid plasticity able to draw the viewer into the work. As with figures like Dawson and Gardner, a preliminary grounding in technical skill has paid remarkable artistic dividends. Beyond his maritime scenes, Ronny also paints landscape and still life scenes, the latter of which evoke the style of the Flemish Old Masters and bear testimony to his tutelage under Willem Dolphyn.
Ronny is a member of the Belgian Society of Maritime Artists (1995), has been selected as an Associate Member to the Royal Society of Marine Artists (2004), and has featured in prestigious publications including the Dictionary of Sea Painters by E. Archibald (2000) and a volume on the Royal Society of Marine Artists (2005). As an artist he has become increasing decorated in recent years, winning the Worshipful Company of Shipwrights award in 2006 and being given the Award of Excellence by the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut (the largest in the States) in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Ronny has completed commissions for numerous organisations and private companies, and his work is to be found in the National Maritime Museum of Antwerp, as well as in private collections in Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, Sweden, Great Britain and the USA. He is particularly well respected in his native Belgium, with commissions for the City Council of Hoboken, the Belgian Navy, and the Port of Rotterdam. In his work for private organisations Moortgat has also been able to show his skill in depicting the contemporary industrial maritime landscape, yet another indication of his multifaceted talent.