BIOGRAPHY (1905-1992)

1905 – 1925

1905, October 12th, Elie, Charles, Thomas, Marie, Count de Borchgrave d’Altena born at Ixelles, Belgium.
Eldest sibling of four boys.



Walram 1906-1969
Hugues 1908-1964
Serge 1912-2000

MOTHER  Ruth Snyder

His mother, Ruth Reilly Snyder was a descendant from Charlemagne Tower, wealthy industrialists from Philadelphia.


He spent his childhood at the castle of Zandberg in Varsenare, at 9 kms from Bruges. 

FATHER Camille de Borchgrave

His father, Count Camille de Borchgrave d’Altena (born in 1870 at Marlinne castle – Limbourg – deceased in 1940
at Knokke) is a gentleman, relatively conventional, principled. At the beginning of the century, he was at the service of King Leopold II.

His mother met her husband in Russia at the US Embassy where her uncle was ambassador.
They married in 1904 in Philadelphia.

Chateau de Zandberg

Pushed out by the first world war, the family settled in United Kingdom

where Elie attended boarding school at Downside College (Somerset)


In 1930, the family moved to Villa Altena,
built by Camille de Borchgrave, in Knokke.

Belgium, St Louis Institute of Brussels: Literature and Philosophy B.A. and Cavalry Officers School graduated.

It was natural in families of the nobility that family boys embrace either a military career or a diplomatic career.

Elie at 25 years old.

Elie and Hugues de Borchgrave.

Found of golf playing, Elie became at Ravenstein Royal Belgian golf club champion in 1929, 1930, 1933 and 1936.
Golf player: handicap +2

Camille de Borchgrave’s caricature exhibited
at the Royal Ravenstein Golf Club House.

1907 His father, Camille de Borchgrave,
by Louise Lambert.


Elie Borgrave travelled all over Europe and in USA.

Exhibitions in France before the war in 1936-1937

Elie Borgrave discovered abstract painting among exhibitions in Paris at Modern Art Museum “The Origin and development of international art” and The Masters of Independant Artat the Petit Palais. 

This great artistic shock determined his life as an artist and decided him, repelling all the ways that prevent him from keeping his individuality, to be a painter.

He felt an emotional revelation facing Georges Braque, Matisse and Juan Gris cubist paintings.
He broadened his knowledge of art history by learning about the great masters.

Juan Gris 1887-1927


1941 september 20th, he married the British, Grace Arthur Scott Jeavons in Wales (Upton, Worcestershire).

Borgrave wanted to become a painter.
He worked diligently drawing and painting, assimilating all techniques. Self-taught, he filled many sketchbooks. 
Then, he signed his works with the pseudonym Elderen”, another family name.

ELDEREN : Borgrave’s pseudonym between 1941 and 1950.

May 1940, he is back in Belgium and mobilized but, after the Belgian and French capitulation, he left for Spain and Portugal, waiting for visas and tickets to South America. In Rio de Janeiro, under difficult conditions, he lived restauring fresco paintings of Copacabana hotel and teaching golf to President Vargas.

In 1941 april, he arrived in New-York  from Buenos-Aires, then Canada to join the Free Belgium Forces where they were regrouping to fight. They were trained by the British army in commandos. Back in United Kingdom , he came up against the military authorities and was demobilized.

He spent the end of the war in United Kingdom, London and Wales.

Shoes Dated drawing 3.2.45 

Ram Skull  Dated drawing 18.3.45

He met the Polish jewish painter,
Jankel Adler, former professor
at the Bauhaus, in exile in London.

The latter painted a portrait
of Elie Borgrave and the two
artists will become good friends.

1941, His father, Camille de Borchgrave, died in Belgium.

Elderen bold pastel 49 x 39 cm
Private collection


In 1946, he was back in Paris and befriended with Geer and Bram Van Velde.
He participated at the “Salon des Réalités Nouvelles”, created in july by the art lover Frédo Sidès, with Bram and Geer Van Velde, Maria-Elena Vieira, Sophie Taeuber-Arp etc. 
The Salon, which was held in the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Paris, offered a unique visibility for abstract art, with a very open policy and a will for international participation. In the line from Abstraction-Creation, it was meant to set up annual “concrete art, non figurative or abstract art” exhibitions.

Robert et Sonia Delaunay

Elie Borgrave returned in Belgium and participated, for the first time, at an exhibition at Galerie Louis Manteau in Brussels, one of the first galleries to show abstract art.
He divided his time between Brussels, Paris and New-York.

Bram and Geer Van Velde who became very good friends.

Bram Van Velde

Geer Van Velde



Birth of his daughters, Semira and Nicole, in quick succession.

In 1949, he set up residence and studio in Connecticut ,5 north West Street at Stonington (150 kms from New-York)

In the same time,  Borgrave founded there a Modern Art Summerschool with his brother in law, David Chapin, American abstract painter.

David Capin Composition No.1 :


His style was decided, non figurative, a form of lyric abstractism or abstract expressionism but he did not want to belong to a particular art movement.

His painting reflected an intellectual, almost mystical approach which tent to show a search to absolute.


Elie Borgrave decides to give up his pseudonym and signs his paintings of the monogram,
capital greek sigma, Σ, followed by the year of the creation of the work.

1950 : First oil on canvas lower
right monogrammed ” Σ “

During his stay in USA, he participated to group exhibitions at Pennsylvania Academy, Museum of St Louis Annual and Cincinnati Museum Annual.

His style was chosen, not figurative, a form of  lyrical abstraction.

Elie Borgrave immigrated to USA. He met Jsraël Ber Neumann, famous art critic and dealer who exhibited his paintings in his gallery, the New Art Circle in New-York from 1949.

Neumann moved to New York City in 1923, a year later he would open a gallery, first called J.B. Neumann’s Print Room and later the New Art Circle gallery, which was also known as a meeting spot for artists and art lovers.

He championed progressive living artists, including Wassily Kandinsky, Max Beckmann, Paul Klee, and Georges Rouault.


Studio in Stonington

Elie Borgrave in his Stonington’s studio,
in front of the painting “Reconciliation
of the Greys”
1954, exhibited at
the Stable Gallery in 1955.

The “New Art Circle”, gallery created by J.B. Neumann


The meeting between Elie Borgrave and YB Neumann launched his career in the United States.

He participated to many group exhibitions in New-York, at J.B. Neumann Gallery, then at New Art Center before being consacrated by his first personal exhibition at Stable Gallery (1954 december 20th-1955, january 20th), under the aegis of Mrs Eleanor Ward, Director.

1954 june 11, Elie Charles Borgrave became a naturalized American.



Elie Borgrave did not feel in tune with the New-York School and wanted to detach himself and feel free from all influences.

At 1955, he decided to return to Europe.

Borgrave in his studio in Ischia island

He moved to the island of Ischia, at Forio d’Ischia in front of Napoli in Italy.

1956 “Il Serenita” Oil on canvas exhibited at Galleria d’Arte “La Fontana” which brought together painters, writers, poets and artists from all countries.

Σ 56 Oil on wood panel 46 x 121 cm

Σ 56 Oil on wood panel 20 x 57 cm

In the 1950s,  Forio d’Ischia

The cost of living, the climate and the artistic atmosphere enabled him to exhibit in Ischia, Bordighera, Positano and especially in Roma at the Galleria Schneider.

Exhibition in Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna in Roma

Denis Laoureux (2017 “Elie Borgrave” Snoeck Editions, Ghent, Belgium)said ” Why Italy? We can imagine that the cost of living in the Neapolitan region must have beenone criterion. But it was not the only one. In fact, in the 1950s, Rome and Northern Italy – Milan and Turin – were artistic hubs. So, it was also in that context of artists on the move that we must include Borgrave’s installation in Italy, where he stayed untill 1958. Twombly, or example, who had also first earned his spurs at the Stable Gallery, moved to Italy in 1957, and gradually reviewed his painting in an approach which encompassed the presence of language and paint within one and same picture.”


After many trips in Europe, Borgrave decided to leave Italy, and to settle in France.

Borgrave in his studio in France

In that time, he participated to exhibitions in United Kingdom and in Germany (Dusseldorf).

He separated from his wife who went to live in Switzerland with their daughters.

Σ 60 Oil on canvas 158 x 140 cm

Σ 62 Oil on canvas 146 x 114 cm exhibited in Ixelles Museum in 2017

Elie Borgrave and his family settled in Fourqueux, to the west of Paris,
near to St Germain-en-Laye and Fourqueux’s golf club.

Borgrave exhibited at Galerie Synthèse in Paris, and sold those two paintings to the French Art Modern Museum (MAM).



Back in Brussels, Borgrave lost his mother who was still living at Knokke, and settled there for a while.

These setbacks encouraged him to seek serenity. Living in Ixelles, he met a new lady, a widow, from Antwerp. He will find with her a new inspiration, a faith and a new impetus. He married her and seeked a place to live and paint.


During 1970′ and 1980′, Borgrave had many group exhibitions in Belgium, Galerie Tamara Pfeiffer, Galerie Veranemann in Brussels, Museum d’Hondt-Dhaenens in Deurle, in Paris at the Salon de Mai in 1971 et 1972.

Some personal exhibitions at the Galerie Denise Van de Velde in Alost, Yoshii in Paris and Galerie Unip in Lausanne in 1981, Galerie Willy d’Huysser in Knokke in 1988.

E. Veranneman, art dealer and designer

1970’s Oil on canvas 

In 1963, he saw his career revived, despite his long absence, by a personal exhibition at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Brussels
Elie and Lucie de Borchgrave at exhibitions openings
In 1967, he found on the Belgian border, in Holland, a barn in the countryside (near Sluis, in Zuidzande) that he partly converted, in a studio, and partly, very minimalist decor, black and white housing .
There, he found this serenity that gives him a new breath of inspiration, more refined and sipiritual.
The campaign, soothed and allowded him to return to find his values. They are assumed, and its production will be prolific for twenty years.

Studio in Zuidzande

Willem Enzinck : 1969 “Elie Borgrave”  Arts & Voyages Editions, Lucien de Meyer, Belgium

During this Dutch period, he multiplied the exhibitions and had be chosen to represent his country at the World Exhibitions (Belgian Pavilion) in 1970 in Canada (Montréal)  and 1972 in Japan (Osaka) with the help of his friend, Emiel Veranneman, designer and art dealer, who exhibited him in Brussels.

In his early 1960’s, he extricated himself from the ‘old cubism’ in a cosmic conception.

This period marked a synthesis between Europe and America, creating very personal, liberated and original work.

House and studio in Zuidzande for 20 years.

In Zuidzande, he worked all week awaiting the arrival on weekends, his wife, Lucie and their son, Alain.



Elie Borgrave left Zuidzande and settled with his wife Av. Winston Churchill in Ixelles. He settled his last studio very near home.

Exhibition in 1989 at Willy d’Huysser’s Gallery at Knokke-le-Zoute (Belgium)

Last studio in Ixelles (Av. Winston Churchill)

Oil on canvas, monogrammed “Σ88” 81 x 110cm

Av. Winston Chruchill in Ixelles

“The time has come to pay tribute to ELIE Borgrave who patiently, silently, I would say religiously, accumulated a work of quality and distinction. We show a fifty paintings of the 60s, 70s and 80s, and the sense of power that emerges is consistent with a surprise: this one of our most important abstract painters living and working tirelessly on our side and … we knew him so bad!
The solid reputation he had acquired abroad, especially in the USA, will finally allow us to take our turn!
Typical Belgian default we do not recognize ours when he was recognized abroad.
Elie, thank you for your long patience.”

 Willy d’ Huysser (1989)

1992.10.16 Elie Borgrave died at 87 years old in his native country, in Ixelles, Brussels (Belgium)

Still playing golf with his wife.

Elie et Lucie de Borchgrave

Oil on canvas, monogrammed “Σ90”,81 x 110cm

Oil on canvas, monogrammed “Σ90”,89 x 116cm