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28 / The Nudes of Hattonville / 1998
01 / #1 / 1998
02 / #2 / 1998
03 / #3 / 1998
04 / #4 / 1998
05 / #5 / 1998
06 / #6 / 1998
07 / #7 / 1998

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The Nudes of Hattonville by Drs Dorothé Kurvers

The Nudes of Hattonville
by Drs Dorothé Kurvers

Jean Ruiters oeuvre focuses on the interplay between history, historical events and associative thinking. There are no straigthforward interpretations, in spite of the straightforward appearance of the works. One has to approach the images willing and determinend to contemplate them. If not, we are left with nothing but their beauty.

In Les Nudes d'Hattonville Jean Ruiter again explores this important topic. It is a story about past and present. About the old and the new world. About the marks people leave behind. Marks later generations have to live with. A central image in this series is the role of women as bearers of history. Sometimes they are portrayed as victims, but they come out victouriously in the end. The series continues the themes of the Dante Revisited-series (1999) and the series Women Sacrified and Opposed, made in the nineteen eighties.

Hattonville is a small town in rural France. In 1998, Jean Ruiter decided to move in to a stately house opposite the church. Both house and surrounings inspired him to Les Nudes d'Hattonville. Living amdist abandond furniture, he could feel the presence of past generations. Their history could be called universal. With a leading role for women as bearers of life in all its facets.

On first sight Les Nudes d'Hattonville are beautiful compositions radiating a fin-de-sciecle atmosphere. There is a certain air of melancholy about them. They are lovely, moving. What more do we need from art? In this series there is more: the symbols found in the house turn out to be Christian symbols. Under layers of dust there we find a glorious past, when Christianity made its presence felt in all aspects of daily life. In Les Nudes d'Hattonville the symbols are given new meaning, the past is given a function in the present. With tongue-in-cheek references to the history of art(o.a.Manet, Braque, Giotto)

And what could be more logical than using womanhood as a symbol: woman is the foundation of life. The women in the series are depersonalized. Their heads, save one, are unrecognizable. They personify innocence, freedom, vulnerability, truth and divinity, qualities that are emobodied in every woman.

Photographs: A young woman, apparently decapitated by religious books. A dusty bookcase, an old, unused mirror. The books of life and the warmth of life carried by fertility.

A beautifull body in a pantherskin in a combative pose. Flowered wallpaper and chair. A reference to colonial times. The pantherskin is a male trophee, the panther a symbol of Christ's resurrection. The woman is tempts us, but there is nothing sinfull in her seductiveness: she but beckons us to follow the right path.

A robust lady, with a helmet, knife and cross, standing in front of wallpaper showing grain. Food and faith, a knife for sharing. She will cherish and guard what she considers of value. And fight for it.

A stylish woman. With dignity and charm she comes walking down a staircase. Triumphantly she holds an oldfashioned saw in one hand, a chandelier in the other. The saw reminds us of a scroll, the lamp is a symbol of light: a reference to the Gospel of Christ.

The other two works add a bizarre twist to the story. Where in the other works woman seemed to be in control, here we are shown her vulnarable side. These women do have heads. They are no longer anonymus.

In the attic sits stout and busty Juliette, a doll in her arms. She is surrounded by children's stuff, a wedding picture, some empty boxes. Vulnerable in her childlishness. She hankers for protection and peace.

The last picture shows us the naked back of a shorthaired woman. On it a man has scrawled: "Sorry for being your fantasy." Sickels pierce her skin. The reference to the crucifixion is obvious. Christ, too, died because people made him in to something he never was. Many women have suffered the same fate.

Drs Dorothé Kurvers, 2001 copyright 1997