Welcome to the surreal world of Marie Cecile Thijs. Portraits of people, animals, flowers and food, they all bear her specific signature. Stillness is key.
Influences reminiscent of the 17th century Old Masters are recurrent in the artist’s work, simultaneously however her personal interpretation is completely contemporary. Marie Cecile Thijs plays with her subjects by bringing them to life unexpectedly, or – on the contrary – freezing them in time and space. Objects become characters. They move away from their daily destination, assuming a completely new personality. This provides intriguing creations, where tranquility, motion and sometimes also humor meet. In the works of Marie Cecile Thijs the unusual is usual.
Marie Cecile Thijs is specialized in staged photography, and created series like White Collar, Food Portraits, Amazones, Horses, Flowers, Human Angels, Majestic, Elizabeth, Birds & Vases and Green Scenes. She has also taken many portraits of writers, cooks, politicians, designers and artists. Her Food Portraits, contemporary still lifes with a surreal element, were first published in the Financieele Dagblad and French newspaper Le Monde. This innovative series has since been included in multiple museum exhibitions. For this series Marie Cecile Thijs approaches the subject without any existing assumptions, resulting in unexpected and wondrous connections. Through its meticulous execution the wondrous flying objects often depicted in this series appear utterly realistic and commonplace to the viewer.
Marie Cecile Thijs primarily works in series. These continue to expand as new works are created and her series are therefore never officially concluded. Series such as White Collar and the aforementioned Food Portraits present an insight in the compositional finesse of the artist. In combination with the contrast in the use of light and dark in her work, the result is a surrealist imagery. In the most recent series Green Scenes the artist has created a futuristic world in which mutations have taken place between plants, animals and technique, resulting in an organic symbioses. Marie Cecile Thijs shows us still lifes from her imagined reality, a fusion between abstract and figurative elements. Other series, such as Horses and Amazones, are also an indication of the profound insight of the artist in her subjects. The intimate yet direct portraits of animals and persons alike confront the viewer with a sense of familiarity and comfort. On the other hand the directness of these stylised portraits also create a sense of discomfort and abstraction. Her works are therefore both minimalistic and vigorous. This duality – between old & new, light & dark, intimacy & distancing – is key to the work of Marie Cecile Thijs.
A B O U T T H E S E R I E S
W H I T E C O L L A R
The models in this series are portrayed ‘wearing’ an actual 17th-century antique ruff from the collection of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. Since this collar is very delicate and rare, it was photographed by Marie Cecile Thijs – separately and under special conditions – at the Rijksmuseum, and was later digitally added to her models.
Works in the White Collar series are included in the collections of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, the Museum of Photographic Arts San Diego (MOPA) and the National Museum of History and Art in Luxembourg (Mnha).
About the ruff collar (information by the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam):
‘This collar is made of particularly fine batiste. It was introduced to the Northern Netherlands by the Flemish refugees who arrived in the late sixteenth century. Because of its shape, this kind of collar was known as a millstone ruff. These became fashionable in the second half of the sixteenth century under the influence of the Spanish rulers. Early millstone ruffs were starched with regular pleats. This collar, however, is looser and less tidy. It is of a type that was popular with young, fashionable men around 1615 to 1635. This is the only surviving pleated ruff in the world.’
F O O D P O R T R A I T S
This series consists of contemporary still lifes showing culinary portraits of food. Suspended in mid-air, yet dynamic and slightly surrealistic, capturing the essence of food. Marie Cecile Thijs looks at these objects as if she is encountering them for the first time, creating a new dialogue. The Food Portraits series has been exhibited in Dutch Museums Nairac, Jan Cunen and Museum aan het Vrijthof, and have been published in French newspaper Le Monde and magazine FD Persoonlijk of the Dutch Financieele Dagblad.
A M A Z O N E S
Portraits of autonomous young women. By combining historic references with contemporary portraiture, these works acquire a sense of timelessness. Silent Thought is included in the collection of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia, USA (VMFA).
M A J E S T I C
Surrealistic portraits of majestic cats, with a playful nod to human nature. Works in this series have been exhibited at the Kunsthal Rotterdam in the Netherlands, at the exhibition called Cat Love, Nine lives in the arts in 2017-2018.
H U M A N A N G E L S
Marie Cecile Thijs depicts angels as man’s accidental companions. In her work, angels are a timeless metaphor. She mixes the metaphysical world of angels with the visible world to create a new reality. Her contemporary angels are surreal, but at the same time look natural. The contrasts between light and dark refer to Renaissance art. The Human Angels series has been exhibited in the Melkweg Gallery in Amsterdam in 2005, furthermore in Museum aan het Vrijthof in Maastricht NL (2015), and most recently in Museum Jan Cunen, Oss NL.
H O R S E S
These portraits reveal the majestic and even mythical properties of horses, even going so far as to create a black and white unicorn using an antique narwhal tooth. Marie Cecile Thijs has also portrayed Salinero, an Olympic gold medal winning dressage horse. Salinero is included in the collection of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.
R I J K S M U S E U M C O L L E C T I O N
Still lifes showing the hidden treasures from the storage center of the Amsterdam Rijksmuseum. Marie Cecile Thijs was allowed to explore these storage areas to look for objects for her still lifes. She also photographed 17th-century objects from the Amsterdam > Asia exhibition.
F L O W E R S, V A S E S & B I R D S
In this multi-faceted series Marie Cecile Thijs brings to life a surrealistic world of flora and fauna. Using strong light and dark contrasts, and using authentic 17th-century Delftware vases, these contemporary works connect the past to the present.
G R E E N S C E N E S
In this series, alienating combinations of plants and flowers form a brand new green realm. In this futuristic world the human hand seems to have disappeared, giving free rein to climate, plants and animals.
E L I Z A B E T H
This series is inspired by the reign of Queen Elizabeth I of England. Historical symbols like the Tudor Rose and the black raven of the Tower of London are references to the many battles that were fought, the intrigues at court and the struggle for the crown.
C O O K S
Each portrait of a chef cook is a scene out of life, showing their dedication, craftsmanship and mastery. This series started in 2010 as a weekly image published in the weekend magazine of Het Financieele Dagblad, the leading Dutch financial newspaper. The series Cooks has been exhibited at Photo Festival Naarden NL (2011), Photo Festival Photoville New York USA (2012), solo exhibitions Lust for Light in Museum aan het Vrijthof in Maastricht NL (2015) and Stills in Motion in 10 Corso Como Shanghai CH (2016).