Luc Tuymans


One of Europe’s most influential contemporary artists, Luc Tuymans is known for his distinctively opaque paintings that parlay photographs — his own and others he re-appropriated from source material — referencing some of history’s darkest moments and personalities, as well as metaphorical objects. However, he is not a photorealist. Distrust of mediated images forms the foundation for his work.


Tuymans, a Belgian artist who lives and works in Antwerp, emerged as a significant personality among contemporary figurative painters — including Peter Doig and Marlene Dumas — when they were thought to be an endangered species in the 1990s. On the occasion of his mid-career retrospective at Tate Modern in 2004, Tuymans said his work “specifically addresses the challenge of the inadequacy and ‘belatedness’ of painting.” Since the mid-1970s, Tuymans’ sparsely colored canvases helped redefine traditional genres of painting. His process continuously analyses and distills his images by making many drawings, photocopies, and watercolors before committing to the oil paintings.

His works are in leading public and private collections worldwide, as well as numerous and frequent solo and group exhibitions. He garnered attention in 2000 for his series of political paintings titled Mwana Kitoko (“beautiful boy”), which reference the state visit of King Baudouin of Belgium in the Congo in the 1950s. The works were exhibited in 2000 at the David Zwirner Gallery and the following year in the Belgian Pavilion at the Venice Biennale. In 2002, he participated in Documenta XI. His first U.S. retrospective traveled from 2009 to 2011 — jointly organized by the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Other venues were Dallas Museum of Art and Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

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