Portraits, Museum Bojimans Van Beuningen Museum, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
This museum houses works from medieval to modern times.
There are several portraits that spoke to me. The first is that by Max Beckmann.
This is Max Beckman with his wife and child. The couple are seated, she may hold some knitting and his hand, his wife’s hand is also raised and cupped against his torso. The child hold a clown or jester with one hand and points to it with the other. The expression on the faces is sober. They are on a patterned rug in the foreground and there is a lit candle and picture frame above the child.
What does this mean? The hands are disproportionally large in the image and his hand is open as in begging or supplication. The painting does not flatter the people; it is a cold family painting. The candle represents hope and constancy. Beckman was one of the many artists labeled as ‘degenerate,’ by the Nazis and his works were removed from museums in Germany and he was not allowed to paint. He escaped to the Netherlands where he found a home. This painting comes from this time after his escape.
The next portrait that lingered in my mind was ‘Self-portrait’ by Kit Kep, from 1902.
This photograph is full of signage. The little horse, ‘Ket’ in local dialect, hangs uncertainly on the wall and in his left had are some flowers which are a sign of limited life. He painted this when he was dying of heart disease and we can see that he is pale and unwell. He also has ‘clubbed’ fingers which are characteristic of chronic lung or hear disease – they hang on to life but only just. His exposed chest and nipple may sign ‘baring’ his chest i.e. exposing himself for all to see. I am not sure what the bowl of water or fluid indicates. I think this portrait works but it is quite obvious in the signage especially when you know more detail about the features in the image.
The next image that drew my attention was by Kees Van Dongen, 1914, ‘Interior/Miss Miroir, Miss Collier and Miss Sopha’
This painting is typology of young girls fashion a the time and are heavily influenced by his time in Egypt. We have Miss Mirror, Miss Necklass and Miss Sofa in various postures and with little in the background apart from the sofa. It looks like a contemporary advertising image. I like this, perhaps because of the bold use of colour and the different poses.