Shifting Skies
Foam presents an exceptional and hitherto little-known theme in the voluminous oeuvre of the well-known Dutch painter Carel Willink.

In the 1930s, he began to photograph the Amsterdam sky from the window of his apartment and studio, situated on the corner of the Ruysdaelkade / Stadhouderskade and overlooking the famous Rijksmuseum. He used the photographs as source material for sketches.

Carel Willink (1900-1983) was one of the foremost Dutch painters of magical realism and 'imaginary realism', as he called his painting style. He combined a refined, masterful technique, rendering reality in a detailed way, with a disconcerting, sometimes even threatening atmosphere in his work. His spectacular cloud formations were significant in his work.

Whilst making the sketches, which preceded the painting process, he used a camera to record his subjects. The photos had a practical purpose; for Willink, it wasn't about the photos themselves, but he used them as preliminary studies for his paintings. With his camera, he scanned the skies outside his studio window across from the Rijksmuseum, searching for, in his own words, 'shifting skies'.

Willink's photographs of the sky over the Rijksmuseum were compiled in a book, which can be found here. The images of the overcast skies were stored away for years in his archive managed by his widow Sylvia Willink-Quiël. There they stayed until recently when Willem van Zoetendaal, photography expert, book publisher and exhibition curator, dedicated a publication – with Willink-Quiël’s support – to this very specific body of work by Willink. This publication also formed the starting point for the exhibition.

Willink did not only photograph clouds, but also all kinds of objects that he used in his paintings. In addition to countless self-portraits, he photographed nudes, parks, sculptures and animals. Sometimes he removed the trees, houses and streets from the bottom of the negative or tilted and reversed the image. The fact that his cloud pictures served as a major source of inspiration is apparent in the paintings: the observant viewer can discover the similarities between the 'shifting' or dramatic skies in both the photos and the paintings.

This exhibition has been developed in cooperation with Sylvia Willink-Quiël and Willem van Zoetendaal. The show consists of modern prints made from scanned negatives as well as original photos printed by Willink from the archives of Sylvia Willink-Quiël and from the collection of the Rijksmuseum.

Foam is sponsored by the BankGiro Loterij, De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek, Delta Lloyd, Gemeente AmsterdamOlympus and the VandenEnde Foundation.

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Shifting Skies