Monique des Bouvrie and Roy Kahmann present the exhibition ‘INNOCENCE’ in Het Arsenaal. The exhibition presents the works of Neeltje de Vries, Schilte & Portielje, Sante D’Orazio, Asha Swillens, Albert Watson and Jonas Bjerre Poulsen.
The work of Neeltje de Vries is presented as follow :
Neeltje de Vries, brings a unique perspective to the genre of nude photography, incorporating elements from its historical context while adding her own artistic touch.
In comparison to the past, where the focus of nude art was predominantly on the male body in mainly sculptures, the representation of the female body as a potential subject began to shift during the Renaissance. However, female nudity was often portrayed in a negative context, depicting women as prostitutes, victims of violence, or through Christian devotion as breastfeeding mothers.
The shift towards a more empowered depiction of the female figure can be attributed to works like Botticelli’s “Birth of Venus,” which paved the way for painters and later photographers. It is important to note that male artists primarily explored the female body as a vehicle for visual play and psycho-sexual exploration. In the early twentieth century, photographers such as Brassaï, André Kertész, and Bill Brandt incorporated elements of Surrealism into their work, abstracting the female body to the level of objects.
Although she initially portrayed slim models in contorted poses against plain backgrounds, she later shifted her focus to larger, heavier models, showcasing a range of body types. Many renowned photographers, including Neeltje, were self-taught, allowing for more experimentation within the evolving moral landscape of society.
Throughout the history of fine art photography, the nude human body has been a subject with a focus on aesthetics. However, it was only in the postwar era that the image of women began to change. Photography gained recognition as a noble art form, and a new way of seeing the world emerged. While there were early anomalies where photographers like Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, and Harry Callahan captured private and intimate portraits of their wives, a new generation of female photographers emerged, challenging societal objectification of the nude and seeking their own representation.
Neeltje de Vries’s work goes beyond conventional settings, often organizing nude shoots in pristine landscapes, breaking free from societal conventions and embracing the purity of nature. This environment allowed for more experimental and unbound artistic expression, offering women new tools to contemplate their position in the world. It also countered the male gaze by presenting women and the world from a feminine perspective, challenging the notion of women solely existing as objects of male pleasure. The rise of feminism in the 1960s and 70s further influenced artistic practices, including photography, with nudity becoming a means to highlight beauty, gender, and identity.
In the context of all these historical developments, Neeltje de Vries’s work encapsulates the essence of nude photography. While conforming to conventional notions of beauty and attraction, her work is a profound acknowledgment of both the body and the psyche. It explores the diverse emotional spectrum of women, expressing a desire to empower and disclose sensuality. Neeltje’s own personal journey, which started from a challenging past, finds transcendence within these luscious and alluring studies of the female body.
Captured mainly in monochrome black and white, with occasional ventures into full-color, Neeltje’s uncommissioned work demonstrates a keen eye for minimalistic compositions, reflecting her background in design and art direction. The models, often women of a similar age to the photographer, exude confidence and pride in their bodies, posing without apprehension, inviting close examination by the camera.
18 November – 15 January 2024
Studio des Bouvrie | Het Arsenaal
Naarden, The Netherlands.