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Intimate But Estranging Portraits By Marlene Dumas

21st century

Intimate But Estranging Portraits By Marlene Dumas

Marlene Dumas is a South African painter living in Amsterdam. She paints provocatively but her portraits of celebrities, young women, or children are strangely beautiful. I hope you will be as enthralled as I am when looking at her works!

Marlene Dumas, For Whom the Bell Tolls, 2008, Tate Portraits By Marlene Dumas

Marlene Dumas, For Whom the Bell Tolls, 2008, Tate Portraits By Marlene Dumas

Dumas uses a technique wet-on-wet as she combines thin layers of paint with thick ones, which creates an intimate but estranging atmosphere. Most of her paintings are taken from original photographs or magazine illustrations.

Marlene Dumas, Supermodel, 1995, Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia

Marlene Dumas, Supermodel, 1995, Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia

As Dumas described her works, she said that her main intention is to ‘reveal’ rather than to ‘show’.
She admits to be prfoundly united with her works.

Lord Alfred Douglas ‘Bosie’ by Marlene Dumas, 2016, © Marlene Dumas, On loan from the artist’s studio, Photographs: National Portrait Gallery, London Portraits By Marlene Dumas

Lord Alfred Douglas ‘Bosie’ by Marlene Dumas, 2016, © Marlene Dumas, On loan from the artist’s studio, Photographs: National Portrait Gallery, London

Lord Alfred Douglas (1870–1945), also known as ‘Bosie’, was a lover of Oscar Wilde and for this relationship the writer was incarcerated in Reading Prison between 1895 and 1897. Dumas said in Amsterdam in 2017: I have been a fan of Oscar Wilde ever since I can remember. As a writer of great wit, his combination of intelligence and humour is unique. He was imprisoned at Reading for two years for loving the beautiful, untrustworthy ‘golden boy’ Bosie.

Marlene Dumas, Naomi, 1995, The Stedelijk Museum© Marlene Dumas photo: Peter Cox Image provided by: The Stedelijk Museum Portraits By Marlene Dumas

Marlene Dumas, Naomi, 1995, The Stedelijk Museum© Marlene Dumas photo: Peter Cox Image provided by: The Stedelijk Museum

Dumas plays with perspective and the proportionality of her figures to highlight what is most important to her- the emotion, expressed through gesturality of her austere oil technique.

Marlene Dumas, The Pilgrim, 2006, private collection. © 2009 Marlene Dumas

Marlene Dumas, The Pilgrim, 2006, private collection. © 2009 Marlene Dumas

Dumas studied first in South Africa:

Art school in South Africa was very stimulating in a theoretical way, issues that only now are becoming important for some Europeans, like… what is political art? I learned a lot about ethics, philosophy and theory in South Africa, while in Holland I started to look at paintings for the first time. I started to appreciate the pictorial or visual intelligence of remarkable paintings. So, that’s important to my work, as well as being white in a black country influenced my philosophy in life. I was not the victim of the bad system. I was part of the wrong system. So I don’t make work about being victimized (although apartheid as a whole was very bad for the spirit of its people). I rather find everyone capable of terrible things and I fear my own weakness and blindness first.”

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Magda, an art historian-to-be, she writes about art because she cannot make it herself. She loves committed and political artists like Ai Weiwei or the Futurists; like Joseph Beuys she believes that art can change us and we can change the world.

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