Welcome to the surreal world of Marie Cecile Thijs. Portraits of people, animals, flowers and food, all bearing her unmistakable signature. Stillness is key. Her work shows influences reminiscent of 17th-century Dutch masters, while at the same time her personal interpretation is purely contemporary. She plays with her subjects, bringing them to life or freezing them in time and space. Objects become characters. They become detached from their original context, and assume a completely new identity. This results in intriguing creations, where tranquility, motion and sometimes also humor meet. You would almost forget that cats do not normally wear collars, or that chickpeas are usually to be found on a plate instead of floating through the air. In her work the unusual is usual.
Marie Cecile Thijs specializes in staged photography. Series she has made include White Collar, Food Portraits, Amazones, Flowers, Birds & Vases, Majestic and Human Angels, series to which she is still adding to this day. Originally a lawyer, she decided twenty years ago to follow her love for the camera.
Her work is included in the collections of the Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, Museum Rotterdam, the Museum of Photographic Arts San Diego (MOPA), the National Museum of History and Art in Luxembourg (Mnha), the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond (VMFA) and many public and private art collections.
Marie Cecile Thijs had her first retrospective at the Museum aan het Vrijthof in Maastricht in 2015. In 2016 she took part in two exhibitions, Dutch Identity at Museum De Fundatie Zwolle and BAL! at Soestdijk Palace. In 2017, works from the Majestic and White Collar series were shown at the exhibition Cat Love, nine lives in the arts at the Kunsthal Rotterdam. A year later, in September 2018, she opened her solo exhibition Between Heaven & Earth at Museum Jan Cunen in the Dutch town of Oss.
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.
A M A Z O N E S
Portraits of mysterious and 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 strong contrasts between light and dark refer to Renaissance art.
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.