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About Bart Van LeeuwenModern RomanticsA fashion photographer who completely rewrote the rules of his trade, he used the city streets as expressive backdrops, which offered an almost casual perspective on cutting-edge fashion designs, and favoured coincidence over carefully crafted poses, Bart van Leeuwen was a master of his profession. His body of work is an intoxicating journey into sensual metropolises like Naples
BACKGROUND INFORMATIONModern Romantics
A fashion photographer who completely rewrote the rules of his trade, he used the city streets as expressive backdrops, which offered an almost casual perspective on cutting-edge fashion designs, and favoured coincidence over carefully crafted poses, Bart van Leeuwen was a master of his profession. His body of work is an intoxicating journey into sensual metropolises like Naples and through fashion capitals such as New York and Paris. The Dutch artist captured the poetic stories of everyday life with cinematographic elegance, drawing inspiration from the contrast-rich style of Film Noir and from Italian neorealism.
Van Leeuwen’s life seems almost too remarkable to capture in just a few words. As a young fashion photographer, he made his way to the epicentres of haute couture; Paris and New York became his home during one of the most legendary eras in the history of fashion and art. The centre of his life was the fabled Chelsea Hotel. Andy Warhol filmed parts of “The Chelsea Girl” there, which enhanced the already mythical nature of the red brick building. Van Leeuwen’s works reflect the atmosphere of these bizarre, brilliant times at “the factory” and the fluctuation between avant-garde and underground. His work was intimately intertwined with his life; the artist’s first wife, Apollonia von Ravenstein, was both his model and his muse. He also photographed his second wife in a seductive pose, one of the rare occasions in which his model looks directly at the viewer. According to Van Leeuwen, “eye contact makes a spectator present in a mise-en-scène. Without it, an observer remains just that, observer of another reality which is actually an ancient principle from the art of painting.” Instead, he used an intensely narrative approach, and the images from his “Modern Romantics” series seem like scenes from a film.
Van Leeuwen’s photographic oeuvre is characterised by chance and spontaneity. Whether shooting Andy Warhol during a workout in the factory or capturing Freddy Mercury, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Grace Jones as they happened to stand opposite him: “I always tried to be open to coincidences, not restricting myself to a pre-defined concept, to find things I wasn’t even looking for but that were actually better than I could have imagined.” The glamorous world of years gone by, captured in Van Leeuwen’s photographs, can be found in the private collections of fashion designers such as Theirry Mugler or Christian Lacroix, as well as in the Andy Warhol museum in Pittsburgh.
The majority of the photographs in this series stems from the late 80s and early 90s. Due to a neuromuscular disease, Van Leeuwen stepped out of the public eye in 2005.
Bart van Leeuwen ( Amsterdam,1950 ), born in an artistic family of musicians and painters, published his first pictures in Dutch underground magazine Hitweek in 1967, graduated from the School for Professional Photography in The Hague in 1969 and started to work as a freelance photographer in 1971. Inspired by film noir, Italian neorealism and photographers like Avedon, Brassaï, Frank, Kertész, Lartigue, Newton and Penn he developed a narrative, cinematographic style, linking facts and fiction.
He travelled the world for magazines like Avenue, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Elegance, Esquire, Harpers Bazaar, i-D, Kult, Marie-Claire, Oor, Playboy, Sunday Times, Viva and Wallpaper and companies such as ABN, Agnès B, Barclays, Bilderberg, Bijenkorf, CBS, Harrods, ING, Levi’s, Matinique, Philips, RCA, René Lezard, Sara Lee, Woolmark and Volvo, shooting fashion stories, advertising campaigns and portraits.
Andy Warhol, Bob Geldof, Candy Dulfer, Carice van Houten, Dizzy Gillespie, Freddy Mercury, Giorgio Armani, Grace Jones, Herman Brood, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jerry Hall, John Cale, Nina Hagen and Sylvia Kristel are among the celebrities he photographed.
He has won several awards ( ADCN i.a.) and gave lectures on photography at academies in Amsterdam ( Rietveld ), Rotterdam ( WdKA ) and Bruxelles ( St. Lukas ).
1950 Born in Amsterdam (NL) 1969 Royal Academy of Art, The Haugue, Den Haag (NL) Lived and worked in Amsterdam (NL), Paris (FR), New York (USA), due to a neuromuscular disorder he retired in 2005 and lives outside of Amsterdam (NL) Died 2017