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Hendrik Kerstens New Old Masters

Published: December 18, 2013 (Issue # 1791)



  • Hendriks Kerstens 'Lampshade,' left, from 2008 and Bag from 2007.
    Photo: Hendrick Kerstens / for SPT

  • Doily from 2011 turns a humble piece of paper into a 17th-century collar.
    Photo: Hendrick Kerstens / for SPT

With the end of 2013 in sight, and with it the Netherlands-Russia year in which the two countries have been party to a series of economic, cultural and social events celebrating their long bilateral relations, one event has caused a significant amount of international interest and attention.

Hendrik Kerstens exhibition of large-scale color photographs, titled Paula, had already been seen in Amsterdam, Brussels, London, New York, Los Angeles and Latin America before it arrived in St. Petersburg but that did nothing to dim the enthusiasm with which it has been met.

With work in the collections of the Art Museum of Santa Barbara and Gemeentemuseum in The Hague, to name but a few, Kerstens reputation preceded him. His latest work, which is now on view in the Erarta Museum in St. Petersburg, follows on the heels of well-received exhibitions at the Ekaterina Cultural Foundation in Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod and Yekaterinburg.

Born in the Hague in 1956, Kerstens work is celebrated for its alchemical admixture of the arts of photography and painting. For nearly two decades, he has documented his daughter Paulas life thorough photographic portraits.

Beginning his project with portrait photography, since 2008 he has placed her in more constructed settings that reference Dutch painting from the seventeenth-century. Bringing to mind the paintings of Rembrandt, Vermeer and Hals, Kerstens emulates the traditional style of the most famous artworks of the period as an ode to the Golden Age of Dutch painting, elevating the humble family portrait to luminous new heights.

The relationship between Dutch painting and photography has long been pondered, with Johannes Vermeer being said to have employed a camera obscura. The clarity of the portraits by the Dutch painters of the Golden Age and their sensitive use of light make them the perfect reference for contemporary photography.

Rather than slavish imitation, Kerstens recreation of Dutch painting also includes references to contemporary life. The photographers slyly humorous, almost tongue-in-cheek approach to his sources and the sheer breadth of the project address issues of seriality, time and identity, while emotionally they speak to his love for his child and their ongoing collaboration.

The thing that fascinates me in particular is the way a seventeenth-century painting is seen as a surface which can be read as a description of everyday life as opposed to the paintings of the Italian Renaissance, which usually tell a story. Northern European painting relies much more on craftsmanship and the perfect rendition of the subject. The use of light is instrumental in this, Kerstens has said of the project.

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Friday, Apr. 18


Teachers and students alike shouldnt miss the opportunity to establish lasting contacts with Russian and foreign institutions during the 21st Education and Career Fair at LenExpo, beginning today and finishing tomorrow. Learn more about education in Russia and connect with your fellow scholars.


The Tromso International Film Festival, Norways largest, brings a short festival to St. Petersburg for one day only during Scandinavian Oddities, starting at 7 p.m. today at Rodina Cinema Center. Tickets for the event are 100 rubles ($2.80).


Sunday, Apr. 20


Celebrate Easter at Pavlovsk during the Easter Fair that begins today and continues through next Sunday. Visitors will have the chance to paint Easter eggs and children can take part in games as well as help decorate a tree in honor of Christianitys holiest day.


Today is one of the final days to see the exhibit Cacti Children of the Sun at the Peter the Great Botanical Garden. Starting Apr. 17, budding botanists will marvel at the variety and beauty of the deserts most iconic plant.


Monday, Apr. 21


Improve your grasp of Neruda, Bolano and Marquez at TrueDAs Beginners Spanish Lesson this evening at their location on the Petrograd Side. An experienced teacher will be on hand to help all attendees better understand the intricacies of the language and improve their accent.


Tuesday, Apr. 22


SPIBAs Breakfast with the Director event series continues as the association welcomes Andrei Barannikov, general director of SPN Communications, to the Anna Pavlova Hall of the Angleterre Hotel this morning at 9 a.m. Attendees must confirm their participation by Apr. 21.


The AmCham Environment, Health and Safety Committee Meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. this morning in the their St. Petersburg office.