Ruud Van Empel

World #25,  2007,  Cibachrome 118.1 x 39.4 inches

World #30, 2008,  Cibachrome 33 x 47 inches

World #13,  2006,  Cibachrome 33 x 36.5 inches

Boy & Girl, World Series, 2008.  Cibachrome 67 x 95 inches

World #24, 2006,  Cibachrome 11.5 x 16.8 inches

World #27, 2008,  Cibachrome 33 x 47 inches

World #31, 2008,  Cibachrome 23,5 x 33 inches

About the Artist

Van Empel’s working method is a complex one. He photographs 4 or 5 professional models in his studio, and takes many series of detailed photos of leaves, flowers, plants and animals. Having gathered hundreds of pictures in a database, he selects those images with which he can achieve the best results. The models are mixed in the Photoshop program, clothes are photographed separately on a tailor’s dummy. In this way he creates new images of mainly children, black or white, set in a paradisaical environment.

The art historian Jan Baptist Bedaux wrote in the catalogue (2006) of Museum Het Valkhof:

“The fact that many of the children in his compositions have a dark skin is a facet that cannot remain without comment. Although it is self-evident that a child’s skin colour is not important, the iconography of the innocent child was traditionally represented by ‘white’ children. The earliest examples of this date from the early seventeenth century. These are portraits in which children are captured in an idealized, pastoral setting. It is a genre to which the children’s portraits of the German artist Otto Dix, a source of inspiration to van Empel, refer.

In deviating from the standard iconography by giving the child a dark skin, Van Empel inadvertently assumes a political stance. After all, this child is still the focus of discrimination and its innocence is not recognized by everyone as being self-evident.”

Ruud Van Empel’s Website

Ruud Van Empel on Wikipedia

Posted by Carmelita Caruana

  • oh my god. These are amazing and beautiful. the children’s dark black skin are so beautiful. I’m always happy to see more positive, traditional artworks featuring dark black people.

  • KC

    Stunning photographs! Very thought provoking!
    Here’s my interpretation based on the images and the description below them:
    Not only is the skin color of the children (shown here) a significant political stance but also the “untouched forest” like setting (instead of the traditional pastoral one) quite important.
    Also interesting:
    1. The white doll in the black girl’s hands (notice the doll’s old fashioned hair style).
    2. The old fashioned, catholic style frocks the girls are wearing.
    To me these signify how the rest of the world sees Africa: that the denizens are naive tribes, unable to take care of themselves and hence needing help from the Western countries. The dresses and the doll symbolize (perhaps) the hand-me-downs that “rich countries” pass on, seemingly, out of compassion to African nations. I also mentioned “Catholic” to emphasize, how religions from outside (Christianity, Islam, etc.) have at times been forced on the natives, in the guise of helping them.
    These are just my opinions! Would love to know what the artist thinks!

  • Yes I do think the white doll in the black girl’s hand is quite a big statement.

    I think the girls are dressed in their Sunday best, their church clothes, Christian rather than Catholic. The dresses seem both new and special to me – the lace gloves and colour matched bag, the white collars.. and I agree the Western dress is another possible statement about colonialism and westernisation.

  • Gamzehacipasaoglu


  • nous sommes d’accord, merci!

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  • Tasha

    ))) Catholicism is a branch of Christianity, Carmelita. So, you can’t oppose them. Just saying.
    The photos are interesting…

  • Elena