La muse vénale

  • 1979
  • René Daniëls
  • oil on canvas
  • 200 x 300 cm
  • Location not on view.
  • Acquired in 1981
  • Inventory number 901

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'La muse vénale' by the Dutch artist René Daniëls consists of two parts. The left half of the painting shows a white swan swimming towards the left, while the right half shows two black swans swimming towards the right. The water is represented with coarse horizontal strokes of paint which run on from one part to the other. There are light and dark areas in the water, mainly dark areas around the white swan and more light areas around the black swan. A small border of the bank is visible at the bottom of the painting.

'La muse vénale' looks like an innocent romantic picture, but the title refers to a poem from the anthology 'Les Fleurs du Mal' by the French poet Baudelaire. It asks a critical question of the muse, the source of inspiration for artists, about what she would do to earn a living in difficult times. Do you remain loyal to your muse or do you surrender to improper motives? In other words, who really is your muse? For Daniëls these are essential questions and the theme of the muse occurs regularly in his work. Daniëls often worked in series, with one work leading to the creation of the next, sometimes associated on the basis of their form, sometimes on the basis of the meaning of an image. There are several works entitled 'La muse vénale'. For example, in the Van Abbemuseum collection there is also a version with mussels.

In the late 1970s René Daniëls was considered as a groundbreaking young artist in the Dutch art world, comparable to painters in Germany and Italy such as the “neue Wilden” and the “young Italians”. They painted recognizable scenes in an expressive manner and their themes were often full of meaning. However, in Daniëls’ work the emphasis is not on expression or commitment; it is poetic and open to different interpretations.


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