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Martin Baeyens: Innovative Expression

Martin Baeyens is an award winning Belgian artist with an impressive checklist of more than 400 ex libris and occasional graphics dating back to 1965. Born in Melle, Belgium on April 4th, 1943, he studied graphic design in Belgium and at present, he is a teacher of graphic design.

Many fine artists have little interest in designing ex libris. They consider it to be too fussy, detailed and without real challenge. “Petit bourgeois art with no honor to be gained and which produces hardly any income”. Aside from this, limited technical expertise and misconstrued perception of the collectors’ interests have caused discouragement.

(6 x 2 5/8", 158 x 67 mm) (5 15/16 x 1 15/16″, 150 x 49 mm)

Mr. Baeyens was introduced to the art from by world class Belgian wood engraver, Gerhard Gaudaen. He said it was Gaudaen who contaminated him with the ex libris virus. Baeyens’ checklist dates his first bookplate being executed in 1966 by way of wood engraving. For the next decade his preference was to work with wood.

In 1976 he made his first ex libris, which incorporated serigraphy. Today, he almost exclusively works with this technique. Of course, there is always the occasional etching, wood engraving, mixed technique or more recently, computer assisted design.

(3 1/2 x 2″, 90 x 52 mm)  (7 x 2 3/4″, 178 x 69 mm)

Mr. Baeyen’s jazzy trademark style has developed through the use of serigraphy. He seeks the challenge of producing a work of art on a small surface utilizing innovation, contemporary design, and use of color and visual content. Baeyens’ interest is in making an exquisite piece of graphic art. The development of his work through the years started with the abstract and evolved to figures, silhouettes in a lyrical abstract landscape. He then expressed his concern for the ecological threat to landscapes through his designs. Now Baeyen’s transitions back to abstraction and fewer elements. “The less you use, the stronger and better the work becomes”. He finds that, “rumbling about with ex libris is warm and human, and in addition to that it has a special cultural aspect.” When asked what makes a successful ex libris, Baeyens replies: “It should meet the collector’s expectations. Text and image have to go hand in hand harmoniously. It has to be an artistically justified little print…”

Martin Baeyens is a true master in the field of multicolor screen-printing and has won no less than 50 awards around the world. His accomplishment is truly innovative, contemporary style in bookplates.


References: Van Der Zee, Geert H. [2000]. “Martin R. Baeyens and the Art of Ex Libris

Ex Libris Chronicle
Director: James P. Keenan