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Architecture and art librarian to be honored by Belgian government


Andrea Lynn, Humanities Editor

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Jane Block, the head of the Ricker Library of Architecture and Art at the University of Illinois, will be honored by the Belgian government for her scholarship on the art and culture of Belgium.

Block will be granted the honorary title of “Officer in the Order of Leopold” and will be presented with a civic decoration and certificate signed by King Albert II during a private ceremony at 12:30 p.m. Friday (March 7) at the Sofitel Chicago Water Tower hotel, 20 E. Chestnut St.

Renilde Loeckx-Drozdiak, the consul general of Belgium in New York, will present the honors. Paul Van Halteren, the honorary consul of Chicago, also has been invited.

Block, the Andrew Turyn Professor in the University Library, was notified of the honor in a letter from the Belgian Consulate General in New York. It read: “In recognition of your service to Belgium through your expansive literary offerings on Belgian art, His Majesty King Albert II has conferred upon you a civilian decoration.”

Block was told that the honor was initiated “at the highest level of the Belgian Ministry.”

“It is all quite mysterious to me, but I am presently surprised and most grateful,” said Block, who has served as the head of the Ricker Library since 1988.

Block’s scholarship has focused on European progressive art in the decades before and after 1900, with a particular emphasis on developments in Belgium. Since publishing her dissertation in 1984, she has written three books, 15 essays that have appeared in international exhibition catalogs and peer-reviewed journals, and a half-dozen dictionary entries.

This body of work has dealt with three aspects of Belgian avant-garde art: the graphic arts, Neo-Impressionist painting and the role of exhibition societies.

Block is working on an international exhibition with the Indianapolis Museum of Art titled “The Faces of Neo-Impressionist Portraiture,” scheduled to open in fall 2010.

Block has received several other distinguished honors for her work.

Her book of edited essays, “Belgium, the Golden Decades, 1880-1914,” was awarded the 1998 Worldwide Books Award for Publications from the Art Libraries Society of North America. Her election as an associate member of the Royal Academy of Arts and Sciences of Belgium also reflects the impact of her work in the field.

She has received two post-doctoral Fulbright Fellowships for study in Belgium and has served as one of 12 international jurors to award the Francqui Foundation prize (of 100,000 euros) for the Humanities and Social Sciences. The Francqui, considered to be the most important scholarly prize that Belgium offers, is awarded by the king of Belgium.