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P1050856An extraordinary exhibition of the art of painter Kris Spinhoven begins on Friday, June 3rd through June 11th at the Wout Vuyk’s Gallery on the Singel Canal number 383, Amsterdam.

We all know that the Netherlands has its rich tradition of portrait painting starting as far back as the Sixteenth Century. One only has to think of Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Van Dyck and so many other great portraitists who captured the essence of their sitters with a virtuosity that can take your breath away. This great art form takes us well into the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century with masters like George Breitner or Willem Witsen painting in the Amsterdam Impressionist style, some of you might know the painting by Breitner Girl in a Red Kimono.

What about the portraitists today in 2016? Has portraiture become a lost art perhaps? An art for the wealthy sitter perhaps? No, not when you come to this outstanding display of 31 paintings of the same model (Lenie) done in various mediums illuminating the small exhibition space on the canal.

Clipboard abbaI had the pleasure of spending a few morning hours with the painter Kris Spinhoven (shown below) contemplating her model she painted over a period of twenty years, building trust and friendship with Lenie which resulted in this series of oils and watercolors.

P1050844Spinhoven’s formal art education was completed with honors at that great Dutch traditional institution in The Hague, the Royal Art Academy.

Spinhoven is somewhat hesitant to speak about her own paintings as she prefers to let the tapestry of color and form seep slowly into the mind of the viewer. She succeeds in doing exactly that for after some time, I too felt I knew Lenie somewhat.

The artist succeeded in giving me that interest in the sitter through her poses, through her expressions and when the interview ended, after a few hours, I wanted to see even more of this fascinating model. Lenie started out at a very early age as a professional painter’s model and earning not only her own keep but also the respect and admiration of other painters in Amsterdam, yet no one has done what Spinhoven accomplished with so much devotion to her art and with a dogged commitment to her model Lenie.

P1050832Looking at the art work on the walls of the Gallery you sense the great portrait tradition in European Art from Goya to Lucian Freud who painted their models with such expansionist fervor.

Here I find some of that same intent that is precisely where Spinhoven succeeds so well through that combination of color and composition holding your attention and bringing it back to Lenie posing, no, not just posing for us but Lenie being just Lenie.

P1050835Two oils on canvas from 2010 and 2011

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P1050834 P1050836Suddenly, the work grows on you, through the painstaking details of color on color, and you can almost envision the painter working in her atelier with determination and great skill realizing what Tradition in Art means when you imagine looking through the window and seeing the light fall in the gallery below, just like the painter takes us to the light coming through the window in her paintings.

P1050853A series of three watercolors hanging below each other from 2011-2012 showing Lenie having total trust in her, her painter!

No painting cycle for a portrait series would be complete without the traditional nudes and here we do not look at a Renoir nude with a soft glowing skin but at perhaps a Lucian Freud sort of nude, naked in all her glory as a person.

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P1050845Looking at the painting high up on the right, I am reminded of the importance of that table rug eminently visible and very typical of the Dutch households of yesteryear.

P1050846Slowly my eyes scan past the kaleidoscope of colors in the dress and I become part of that secret to where the painter takes me past the obvious to the gaze and the hands – past the colors. Suddenly the painting comes alive and I wonder what Lenie was thinking about.

P1050848This is where the painter holding the brush outdoes herself and I feel myself going back to unhurried times and to where the eye learns the pleasure of looking at the small details shown in the painting upside down. Yet the artist is not focusing on the details but showing us the hands and the sitters concentration.

P1050847P1050852If you love portraiture, do not miss this exhibition. Kris Spinhoven’s landscapes are being exhibited at the Galerie Petit participating at the KunstRai event this weekend in Amsterdam where over 160 Galleries are also exhibiting.

For Me, I miss Lenie already.

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