In the mid 19th century Belgium developed into one of Western Europe’s leading industrial powers. Starting in 1882, the realist painter and sculptor Constantin Meunier (1831–1905) depicted the harsh world of the industrial worker. His unique, reporter- like observational powers enabled him to portray life in the blast furnaces and steel and glass factories, on the quayside, and in the coal mines as he bore witness to the difficult living conditions of the proletariat. He made his mark with this work in 1886 – not coincidentally, one year after the founding of the Belgian Workers’ Party. He went on to become the internationally recognised standard-bearer of the cultural circles around the progressive magazine L’art moderne.