Category: Personalities

Could I have a Tietz, please?

German traders played a major role in the development of Antwerp in the 19th and early 20th centuries. One of the names that still rings a bell with some of the elder locals is Leonard Tietz. Where one can now find “A l’Innovation”, next to the Van Dyck statue along the Meir, Leonard Tietz opened his Grands Magasins.

The Grands Magasins Tietz, Meir
The Grands Magasins Tietz, Meir

As the name implies, he found inspiration in the large department stores that had arisen in late 19th century Paris. One of the products that he created a name with for himself was a type of straw hat. People like Maurice Chevalier usually wore that type of hat. People in Antwerp referred to these hats as a ‘Tietz’.

The richly ornamented façade functions as a kind of prelude. It gives the public a foretaste of the riches that await them inside. It is a design of the Antwerp architect Joseph Hertoghs. Hertoghs acted as a kind of house architect for the German colony around the turn of the century.

After World War I, Tietz and many other German families got under fire in the anti-German climate of those days.

All of Tietz’ shops, including the one in Antwerp and the one in Brussels in the Nieuwstraat, were confiscated. The Belgian government sold them publicly. It was the Bernheim family, who originated from Alsace, and had started their own chain of department stores under the name “A l’Innovation”, who bought the Tietz shops for their own use. Interestingly enough, the Inno chain later fused with Galleria Kaufhof, which is a descendant of … the Tietz shops in Germany.

Recently Inno restored the façade to its original condition. A few less successful changes from the 60’s and 70’s have disappeared. The project cost over 4 mio euro, but the result shows the decision was right.

Popular sculptor has died

Pas' portrait of Marnix Gysen
Photo: Carlo Van Sant

Saturday May 13th, Antwerp sculptor Wilfried Pas (1940-2017) unexpectedly passed away. Pas studied sculpture at the Antwerp Academy and after his studies he decided to come and live in this town.

Adriaan Raemdonck, leader of the Zwarte Panter Galery introduced Pas in 1973. In those years Pas and Fred Bervoets, another Zwarte Panter artist, worked closely together and influenced one another. But most people will certainly remember Wilfried Pas as the man who succeeded in creating beautiful, lively bronze statues of some of his contemporaries. Writers such as Marnix Gysen [Maarschalk Gérardstraat], Willem Elsschot [Mechelse Plein] and Paul van Ostayen [Minderbroedersrui], the actor Julien Schoenaerts [Kerkstraat], even King Bauduin [Thonetlaan Linkeroever] each and everyone a proof not only of Pas’ artistic qualities, but at the same time a proof of his insight in the personality of the people he portrayed.

By the way, also Bauduin’s brother, King Albert II, was strikingly cast in bronze by Wilfried Pas only a few years ago.

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