Artist painter Etienne Steel. Photo

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Photo of a portrait of Simon Van Daelen by painter Etienne Steel. The back contains notes on Simon Van Daelen, added in February 2018 by Bob Steel, son of Etienne Steel.
Content Date
ca. 1940
Content Location
Etienne Steel, artist painter
Digital copy available as collection KD_00502 at Kazerne Dossin.
Level of description
Extent and medium
2 digitised images (1 photo)
Administrative and biographical
Etienne Steel was born in Sleidinge, Belgium, in 1910. He first became a school teacher, but started pursuing a career in the arts after studying in Ghent and Antwerp. In 1940, Etienne Steel, his wife M. Van Beveren and their two sons Bob (°1937) and José (°1939), moved into a rental apartment at Cuylitsstraat 30 in Antwerp, where in 1942 a daughter called Luce was born. The upper floor of the building was rented by another tenant, the Belgian-Jewish Simon Van Daelen, also known as Mon. Simon had been born in Antwerp on 26 November 1882 and had married a French speaking, non-Jewish woman. The couple owned a red and blue parrot named Coco. As visiting the bird became a real treat for the Steel children, the ties between the family and Simon Van Daelen became tighter.
Since Simon was of Jewish decent, he was afraid to leave his apartment and hid away there during the war years. From time to time he would visit the Steel family to listen to Radio London together or to play board games with Etienne. To pass the time, Etienne Steel set to work on a portrait of Simon Van Daelen which was afterwards hung in the Van Daelen home on the upper floor.
In 1942 or 1943, however, Simon Van Daelen was arrested at home, according to the Steel family possibly after his own wife denounced him. The next sign of life of Simon stems from camp Vught in the Netherlands. It remains unclear how Simon ended up there. It is possible that his brother Henri Van Daelen – whom had connections with a German officer and whom would survive the war in the Jewish elderly home in Scheut – was able to free Simon after which Simon tried to flee. On 21 March 1944 Simon Van Daelen was deported from Vught to camp Westerbork. Two days later he was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Simon Van Daelen did not survive deportation.
Around 1948, Simon Van Daelen’s widow moved out of the apartment at Cuylitsstraat 30, taking the painting of her late husband with her. The Steel family never heard from her again. Etienne Steel only kept the photo he took of the original painting which he added to his artistic portfolio. While painting landscapes in the Ardèche, France, in 1971, Etienne became the victim of a car crash. He passed away in Antwerp on 5 October 1971 due to his injuries.
In December 2017 the Museum Albert Van Dyck in Schilde, Belgium, organised a retrospective with paintings of Etienne Steel. Etienne's son and daughter, Bob and Luce, searched their father's portfolio in preparation of the exhibition and found the photo of Simon Van Daelen's portrait. They kindly donated the original picture to Kazerne Dossin in 2018.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Bob and Luce Steel, son and daughter of Etienne Steel, artist painter
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