With his sensitive and time-transcending compositions, Romanian artist Victor Man is one of the most sought-after painters of the present – and one of the most extraordinary. In the midst of the Old Masters Collection, the Städel Museum is presenting an exhibition of works from the past ten years dedicated to his artistic focus: portraits.
At the Städel Museum, a fascinating dialogue between history and the present emerges. Subtle influences of the pre-Renaissance, dense with metaphors, emerge in his melancholic imagery. In deep dark green, blue, and black, the artist creates portraits as intimate as they are enigmatic. Stylistically complex and difficult to categorize: Man’s work reveals numerous art historical references while at the same time representing a unique position in contemporary painting.
The title of the exhibition, The Lines of Life, is a quote from Friedrich Hölderlin’s poem To Zimmer (1812) and refers to Victor Man’s close connection to poetry and literature. These references, as well as connections to his own life reality, are repeatedly found in his painting – for example, the individuals depicted in the portraits in the main part of the exhibition come from his family environment and circle of friends. Immersed in predominantly dark scenarios and with a contemplative gaze, the sitters are enveloped in existential heaviness. The paintings bear witness to an intense exploration of human existence and speak of the poetic as well as tragic ambivalence of life.
In the second part of the exhibition, the genre of portraiture is continued and at the same time deconstructed with the series The Chandler (since 2013). Victor Man presents the same motif in various paintings, always in a slightly different form – a seated figure with a head on its lap – and invites us to explore our own perception. The Städel Museum brings together all the works from this series, which has rarely been seen in its entirety – including the latest work, which has never been shown before.