The Molse School consisted of artists who consciously chose to study and paint nature on the spot. This trend originated in the middle of the 19th century. This authentic landscape art contrasts with the somewhat conventional, quite complex and sought-after studio landscapes that had been used for many years.
The Antwerp and Limburg Campine play a major role in this trend. This would be due to the very typical character of the region. The simplicity and soberness of this flat, barren land with its vast heathland, moors, fens, marshes, pine forests and dunes stand in complete contrast with the conventional studio landscapes. Similar schools focusing on this authentic landscape art are created in different regions. Examples are Kalmthout, Wechelderzande and Genk.
Around eighty painters were active in Mol. They formed a varied group, in which young and old alike, progressive and conservative coexisted. Some of them worked there for a short time and others returned annually. The figurehead of the Molse School was of course Jakob Smits. He settled in Mol in 1888. Thanks to his persuasion, the other artists came to Mol to experience the impact of the Campine landscape. Besides Jakob Smits and Charles Claessens, there were several other artists living in Mol. First of all, there was Ernest Midy, director of the local art school since 1902 and Paula van Rompa - Zenke.
The main source of information about the Molse kolonie (colony of Mol) is the catalogue of the group exhibition which Smits himself organised in our municipality in 1907. The catalogue contained the names of seventy artists who worked in and around Mol at that time. Some of the names included: Henri Arden, Willem Bataille, Charles Claessens, Herman Courtens, Alphonse De Clercq, Léon Delderenne, Eugen Kampf, Henny Kummerfeld, Otto Marotz, Ernest Midy, Karel Ooms, Frans Van Leemputten, Paula Van Rompa - Zenke, Emiel Walravens,…