Aloys De Buele was born in humble circumstances in the little town of Zele, a few miles east of Ghent. His father was a cobbler and until the age of 23, Aloys worked with him repairing shoes. From the first, however, he showed a strong artistic and creative bent and was always sketching and whittling little figures. One of these, a boxwood pipe on which he carved the figures of musicians from the town band, perfect in every detail, pointed to a quite exceptional talent.
At the age of 23 the urge to follow an artistic career proved overwhelming and Aloys began studies at St Luke’s school in Ghent, much against the advice of his father who feared that he was giving up a secure and steady, if humble, job at home, to embark on an uncertain future in the city.
At first Aloys did feel a little out of place in the sophisticated art school surroundings, but he applied himself with enormous energy and determination to make good. This drive, together with his natural talent, brought success and his studies were crowned with the sculpture prize.
Aloys De Buele carried on as he had begun. Indeed, unending creative activity was the hallmark of his entire life as a sculptor. He was a deeply convinced and serious Catholic, conscious of possessing God-given talents and abilities and of the obligation to use them well and for the highest ends. In the studio he established in Ghent, work never stopped and he attracted a lively circle of young followers.
Although, with his high ideals, De Beule would have been fully prepared to face poverty rather than waste his talent, he never needed to face such a choice, for his career never faltered, especially after the Fine Arts Museum of Ghent bought a work entitled ‘Modesty’. But although he was ranked with the great sculptors of the day, De Beule’s success never went to his head and he worked on at myriad projects, unconcerned with the flattery of art critics and their attempts to define his style.
The full total of his artistic work is truly enormous and it would be wearying to attempt to list it. His output ranged from graves to public monuments, from busts to church exteriors and, following World War I, war memorials in virtually every corner of Belgium. He also produced very many Stations of the Cross of which a number went abroad.
Aloys De Buele lived a full, happy and hugely productive life and was still active at 74 with books of sketches of work not yet begun and ideas not fully developed. His sudden death from pneumonia in December 1935 brought this creative whirlwind to an end, but with so much realised and so much of his work on view, there is no shortage of reminders of the well spent life of this deeply Christian artist.
Reference books record his success at events like the 1913 World Exhibition in Ghent, but those fortunate enough to attend churches with his Stations of the Cross are constantly reminded of the God-given talent of this much-loved Flemish artist and doubtless often say a prayer of thanks for him. May his soul rest in peace. Amen