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12.10 -
Stedelijk Museum
The Netherlands
Group exhibition, Dongen Revisited, curator Ron Dirven & Dingeman Kuilman

Dongen Revisited
A new retrospective

The nineteenth century saw a search for all manner of sources, from the origens of the Nile to electric light and national cultures. Artists also sought new inspiration. They left their town studios and discovered villages unaffected by progress. Or rather: places where the contradictions between the old and the new worlds, between a dim past and the bright future, were not yet apparent.

In the Netherlands, this led to the rise of several renowned artists villages, such as Bergen, Domburg, Katwijk and Laren. For a long time, the fact that the village of Dongen in Brabant was also an important source of inspiration remained a well-kept secret. Artists, including August Allebé, Jozef Israëls, Max Liebermann, Suze Robertson and Jan Veth, became fascinated by the poor population, traditional crafts and the romantic landscape. They created vast quantities of drawings and paintings in and around Dongen. From October 2019 until January 2020 Stedelijk Museum Breda will be presenting a selection of these works in the exhibition De heks van Dongen.(The witch of Dongen)

How does the quest Allebé and his colleagues undertook relate to the world of today? Dongen Revisited brings together ten artists who each answer this question from their own perspective. Their works enter into a dialogue and connect wih the themes presented in De heks van Dongen.

For example, the video Space Potatoes by Anna Lange mirrors Jozef Israëls the painting Peasant family at mealtime. Parallels may also be found in atmosphere, especially the photographs by Dirk Kome, and fantasy, with the installation Les Loques de Chagrin, Fabularum (La Vie d’Esope) by Patrick Van Caeckenbergh. The fantastical elements are also reflected in digital photo collages by Ruud van Empel, which are linked to August Allebé’s artificial staging. Allebé’s attention to ethnological details, in turn, is in line with Olphaert den Otter’s study of plants used in sorcery.

These interfaces are not without significance, but do not get right to the heart of the matter. Between the discoverers of Dongen and their current colleagues, the twentieth century has passed During that period, differences between the old and the new world have been vastly enlarged. The road back to Dongen, a fairytale village from the days of Hans Christian Andersen and the brothers Grimm, has become impassable. However, the desire for continuity and harmony continue. That desire – which is not nostalic, but fundamental– determines the expressiveness of this exhibition.

Dingeman Kuilman,
general director of Stedelijk Museum Breda

In collaboration with the Vincent Van GoghHuis in Zundert

Dongen Revisited brings together ten contemporary artists who mirror the work of their 19th century colleagues. They show (and hear) that the desire for identity, simplicity and tradition has lost nothing of topicality. With new and existing work by: Patrick van Caeckenbergh (BE), Tessa Chaplin, Ruud van Empel, Ingeborg Entrop, Domenique Himmelsbach de Vries, Dirk Kome, Anna Lange, Abdol Motavassel, Olphaert den Otter and Marenne Welten.