Millions of eyes have admired the paintings in the Mauritshuis collection over the past 200 years. For each viewer, the masterpieces evoke different emotions, different details catch the eye and interpretations vary. But what happens if you ask modern masters – sixteen photographers from the Netherlands and Belgium – to cast their eyes over the collection? And to use the centuries-old canvases and panels as the inspiration for a new work? What do they see? What themes, forms and compositions? And how do they translate these old stories into modern photography? The result is on view in the exhibition FLASH | BACK.
Martine Gosselink, Director of the Mauritshuis, is extremely proud that sixteen top photographers have collaborated on FLASH | BACK especially for the anniversary year. They have ‘interpreted’ centuries-old paintings and taken inspiration from them to create new masterpieces.
“This is how I’m boldly describing the photographs that will be on display in FLASH | BACK. There are some 350 to 500 years between the making of the paintings and the creation of these photographs. The exhibition – accompanied by a catalogue and multimedia tour – offers visitors a journey from then to now, from eternity to impermanence, from varnish and paint to high-res photographic material. The photographers allow us to look afresh, through their lens.”
FLASH | BACK takes visitors through the sixteen rooms where the museum’s collection is displayed, where for a limited period every space is enriched with a new, contemporary masterpiece.
The photographers, both established names as well as up-and-coming talent, are all Dutch or Flemish, just like the artists who painted the masterpieces in the Mauritshuis collection. The photographers visited the museum – often on several occasions – to make their final choice and to study the work down to the smallest details. Their selection is surprising and includes both iconic works and lesser-known gems. Stephan Vanfleteren, for example, chose Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp, while Kadir van Lohuizen selected The Bull by Paulus Potter. The other sources of inspiration are extremely wide-ranging, from The Adoration of the Shepherds by Jordaens (Sanja Marušić) to Ruisdael’s View of Haarlem with Bleaching Grounds (Erwin Olaf) and The Lamentation of Christ by Rogier van der Weyden (Carla van de Puttelaar).
The photographers were given complete artistic freedom to translate their inspiration into a photograph. Their work may be moving, raise questions, astound, but also generate discussion. The commission was not to produce a literal remake of an existing painting, but to tap into a deeper layer. Sometimes the work is a supplement to a painting. The photograph by Corbijn is a good example of this. In his work – Two African Men (after Rembrandt) – it seems as if he has transported the two men set down by Rembrandt to the present day. Vincent Mentzel’s photograph shows how the View of Delft, so brilliantly recorded by Vermeer, looks today. And Elspeth Diederix has produced a timeless version of a still life. But the link between Study of Two Brazilian Tortoises by Albert Eckhout and Kevin Osepa’s photograph of a newborn baby is less obvious. And there is also a thought-provoking story behind Morad Bouchakour’s tapestry and its link to The Fiddler by Adriaen van Ostade.
The selection of photographers was made in collaboration with the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam.
FLASH | BACK shows new works – inspired by old masters – by: Sara Blokland, Morad Bouchakour, Anton Corbijn, Elspeth Diederix, Desirée Dolron, Rineke Dijkstra, Kadir van Lohuizen, Sanja Marušić, Vincent Mentzel, Erwin Olaf, Kevin Osepa, Ahmet Polat, Carla van de Puttelaar, Viviane Sassen, Dustin Thierry and Stephan Vanfleteren.
02 June – 16 October 2022
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