The circus is an art form with roots found throughout the world. Performing at festivals and fairs, European circuses are a major part of town festivities. Critical to the success of any circus is advertising. For centuries, banners have been used to promote the show and the star performers.
Hung on façades, arcades or hallways, banners were extremely portable and easily moved from one location to another. But the constant rolling and unrolling resulted in distortions, creases, and tears in the canvas supports. Over time, inexpert attempts to repair the damages contributed to even further damage. New banners replaced worn ones that were discarded. As a result, few of these monumental circus banners have survived to modern day.
These restored banners were created by Frans De Vos (1880 – 1936), a prolific scene designer who lived in Balegem, Belgium. There he painted the façade for Circus Demuynck, murals, and at least one altar painting. De Vos, a descendent of a French family of traveling performers was a director of a small traveling circus from 1900 – 1906.
This exhibition is made possible through the generous support of the William G. and Marie Selby Foundation Endowment and the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art Foundation. Additional support for conservation was provided by the Howard Tibbals Endowment.
Fr. De Vos, Belgium, Acrobats and Clowns, c.1900, Oil on canvas, Gift of Howard Tibbals, 2005. SN1134.1