21 May 2020, The Tablet

Channelling the spirit of the Renaissance


Channelling the spirit of the Renaissance

Egbert Modderman’s prize-winning painting, Restless
© Egbert Modderman


Prize-winning young Dutch painter Egbert Modderman on his mission to recreate and preserve the Bible-based art in the churches of  his native Holland

He’s 30 years old, his work is increasingly sought after, and he’s just won a major art prize. But Egbert Modderman doesn’t create installations, arrange Insta-friendly backdrops, or juxtapose familiar objects in surprising ways. In fact, he’s an artist you might have met during the Renaissance rather than today. He paints biblical scenes in oil on panel, using friends and neighbours as stand-ins for the apostles and saints and Christ himself.

The painting that’s just netted him this year’s BP Young Artist Award is Restless, featuring a bricklayer called Oetze Veenstra, whom he saw working on a building close to his home in Groningen in the northern Netherlands. “I was having a cup of coffee and I looked across and noticed his face,” says Modderman. “He had a rugged look and a weary gaze – and it struck me he’d be perfect for the figure of the Old Testament Eli, the high priest punished by God for failing to restrain his wayward sons, whom I wanted to portray in my next piece. He’s a tragic figure who’s unable to sleep because he’s tormented – I wanted to show that tension in his face, and I knew Oetze would be able to provide it.”

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