A Whimsical Art Journey: The Folon Foundation

Photo of Louisa Hudson
9 January 2017

Jean-Michel Folon was a prolific artist, painter and illustrator whose works adorned the covers of many classic works of literature. Culture Trip explores the Folon Foundation in Belgium, which is a serene monument to his life and work.

© Peter Meuris/Flickr

20 minutes south of Brussels is a small museum, The Folon Foundation, a hidden gem in the renovated farmhouse of the castle of La Hulpe. This is a museum devoted to the illustrative skills and brilliant mind of the Belgian artist, Jean-Michel Folon (1934-2005). Every aspect of this art collection is a surprise to the viewer, including the entrance to the museum, which has its own magical twist. Everything is constructed to seem like a beautiful accident that someone would stumble upon on a Sunday afternoon walk, a trait which is typical of Belgium.

Folon was a Belgian painter, sculpture and illustrator, whose work has a soft and effortless flow, bringing forth a gentle wisdom that gives the viewer feelings of hope and peace. His prominent career included illustrating an edition of Kafka’s Metamorphosis. On view at the museum are his illustrations, bronze sculptures, stained glass, installations, optical games, a room of mirrors and other unexpected wonders. If you did stumble across this on your stroll through the park you would not believe what you had found.

This is not work that can be simply glanced at; it commands your full attention and can inspire you with its philosophical musings,with works that transform a man into a bird, a face into a seascape and an umbrella into a fountain. In keeping with the mood of the museum and its serene surroundings, there is also specially written music by the French composer Michel Colombier that compliments the artwork it is accompanying.

© Peter Meuris/Flickr

The Foundation was created in October 2000 as a cultural symbol of Belgium to preserve Folon’s large collection of work in an ideal location for such natural and colourful art. The farmhouse that the museum now occupies was constructed in 1833 by J.P. Cluysenaar, who also designed the St-Hubert Galleries in Brussels. The aging farmhouse, its cobblestone paths, and surrounding greenery are what help to keep this place such a secret. However, there has been a wide following and large amount of support for the museum over the years from people such as Henri Cartier-Bresson who was one of the first to join the museum’s honorary committee.

Folon’s museum provides a curious journey that remains with you on your walk back through the park, and long afterwards. All ages will enjoy the experience because of the whimsical way in which the art is displayed. To make the day complete you may also have a coffee or a bite to eat overlooking a beautiful view of the park and its lakes in the cafe across from the entrance to the museum which, in keeping with Folon’s illustrations, is called ‘Taverne de l’Homme Bleu’. This blue man is something that you will see repeatedly in the museum – even atop a ladder in a room full of stars.

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel – and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Epic Trips, Mini Trips and Sailing Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travellers and friends who want to explore the world together.

Epic Trips are deeply immersive 8 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and enough down time to really relax and soak it all in. Our Mini Trips are small and mighty - they squeeze all the excitement and authenticity of our longer Epic Trips into a manageable 3-5 day window. Our Sailing Trips invite you to spend a week experiencing the best of the sea and land in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm – and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

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