Luc Tuymans

Luc Tuymans (born 1958) is a Belgian artist who lives and works in Antwerp. Tuymans is considered one of the most influential painters working today. His signature figurative paintings transform mediated film, television, and print sources into examinations of history and memory. Source:

I was asked to look at the work of Luc Tuymans by my tutor, specifically with regards his use of tone. I have since binge-watched several YouTube videos where he has been interviewed, or lectured on his art and the process of making his paintings and I think I’ve fallen for him a bit. It is fascinating to listen to him discuss his work and the way he arrives at the subjects for his paintings, which are for the most part colossal in scope.   He is a master of tone.   His paintings nearly all belie some uncomfortable or horrific truth, and have a hidden depth of meaning that is often not easily apparent from a casual first glance. 

I found some interesting notes from various websites, which attempted to illuminate the reasoning behind creating many pieces – but ultimately, I feel it’s the art that speaks to a person, not the biography or explanatory PR sheet for a gallery opening.   I am also wary of taking too much notice of what an artist – even one as consummate as Tuymans – has to say about his work as even he  doesn’t always understand what he’s doing.   He likens the first three hours of creating a painting to hell (from one of the YouTube interviews I watched). 

‘Painting is about its layers, precision and timing… it’s a physical thing, when some of the contrasts come together, eventually the pleasure starts. It’s a very strange habit.’

Luc Tuymans

I have gathered together some information around certain of his works as examples for me to refer back to. I have posted this information as I found it on the various websites, as it doesn’t need any further adding to by me. I prefer to add the explanation beneath the images.

Luc Tuymans ‘The Walk’ (1993) (Source: 1993 painting The Walk, which depicts Hitler and his favoured architect Albert Speer, taking a stroll in the Bavarian mountains

Luc Tuymans ‘Der Architekt’ (1998) …. The superficial banality of these appropriated pictures is laced with darker implications: the skier collapsed ruefully into the snow in Der Architekt (1998) is Albert Speer, captured in a home movie

Luc Tuymans ‘ Allo!’ (2012) (Image from …. paintings from the Allo! suite of 2012 translate stills from a film about the life of Paul Gauguin, obliquely critiquing art’s tendency to exoticise other cultures. The artist is here glimpsed as a shadow, his reflection caught in photographs of the film and now transmuted into paint. (NB: Tuymans discusses this process in great detail in one of the YouTube videos I watched)

Luc Tuymans ‘Maypole’
Maypole suggests only the mistiest remnants of a memory: men in lederhosen raising a mast (Cross?), with flags waving in the distance, they could be scouts, pioneers, morris dancers or Hitler Youth. Though it’s painted with the faded language of nostalgia, Maypole is strangely empty: void of sympathy or moral, Luc Tuymans renders a scene twice-removed, making it impulsively human. Without context of history or source, the viewer is left to engage with the painting on a purely instinctive level; being drawn into the evils of history, he adopts his own role as a silent and willing observer.

Luc Tuymans ‘Gas Chamber’ (1986) Gas Chamber (1986)The watercolour upon which the work is based was done in situ, when Tuymans was visiting Dachau.

There has been so much written and said about Mr. Tuymans’ work over the years, great discourses around the ethos and meaning of his painting ‘Still Life’ for example, which was commissioned for an exhibition as a response to 9/11 – besides anything else, it’s almost 4 metres by 5 metres in size!

Luc Tuymans ‘Still Life’ (2002)

In this artists’ case I think it is important to understand the psychological process and information that has gone into creating his paintings; nothing is at it seems and to not understand the reasoning behind each work, is to perhaps miss the whole point of it.

Luc Tuymans ‘4PM’ (2012) (Image from – there is also discussion about it)


YouTube videos

YouTube interview More on meanings The Diagnostic View series for instance (One day, I’ll treat myself to a print!)

Luc Tuymans in his studio -image from Apollo article interview

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