Information from the museum, 13 April 2010
The aspired dialogue between works by the South African artist Marlene Dumas and Netherlandish Masters of the 16th and 17th century is linked to the era-spanning exhibitions that have been mounted over the past several years in Munich’s Haus der Kunst under the direction of Chris Dercon. This series has included such combinations as the Baroque paintings of the Dutch painter, Frans Post, who explored Brazil extensively, and landscape paintings of northern Brazil by the contemporary artist, Rosilene Luduvico, and a model of a shantytown (favela) by the “projeto morrinho” in Rio de Janeiro in 2006.
The focus of the planned show lies in the function of the “tronie,” an art form which has recently been discovered through art historical findings. This term, which even appears in old sources, refers to the representation of “heads” that are characterized by an intense expressiveness and the artist’s exceptional handling of artistic techniques. Executed from 1660-70, Johannes Vermeer’s popular Girl with the pearl earring is probably the best known example of “tronie” painting. Jan Lievens and Rembrandt in Leiden were instrumental in establishing this as an independent art form in around 1630. Also famous Flemish masters, including Peter Paul Rubens and Anthony van Dyck, painted such works. “Tronies” are distinguished from related types of figurative painting by their inclusion of characteristics that are of interest to contemporary viewers. In contrast to portraits, “tronies” were painted for the open market. They differ from figurative paintings and religious figures in that they are not restricted to a moral or narrative context. It is, rather, much more an exploration of the spectrum of human physiognomy and expression and the reflection of conceptions of character that are intrinsic to psychology’s pre-history.
Marlene Dumas, too, is interested in the articulation of emotions on a reflective level. Unlike the Old Masters, however, who worked from live models, the artist primarily uses copies of photographic reproductions from books and other printed media as the basis of her work. Time and again she refers to pieces from art history, including paintings by Caravaggio and Courbet, as well as late Gothic sculpture. Possible juxtapositions with “tronien” could be Dumas’ extensive series of works on paper, such as Females (1992-93) and Models (1994). Additionally, well suited are her often larger-than-life paintings of faces that often have titles rich in allusion like The Believer (2005). One of the most recent paintings in this category, Waterproof Mascara (2008), brings to mind the Baroque metaphor of the world’s being a stage on which everyone has his assigned role to play.
The “tronie” as an art form has only been explored within the context of Rembrandt exhibitions. In contrast, the Haus der Kunst is planning a much broader show in a contemporary context. Invited by the then Staatsgalerie Moderner Kunst, Marlene Dumas’ works already appeared in the rooms of the Haus der Kunst in 1990 with her solo show, The Origin of the Species. Since then the artist, who emigrated from South Africa to Amsterdam in 1976, has become far more important internationally. Following major solo shows in Capetown (2007-08), Tokyo (2007), Los Angeles, New York and Houston (2008-09), the Haus der Kunst continues with an intimate presentation of her work that places her art in a fascinating dialogue with highlights of Dutch and Flemish painting.
Preliminary list of artists
Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem, Anthony van Dyck, Marlene Dumas, Frans Floris, Jacob Jordaens, Jan Lievens, Michael Sweerts, Rembrandt, Peter Paul Rubens among others.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue and a symposium.