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10 July 2024

Matthijs Röling (19432024): The youngest of the old masters

It is with great sadness that our team learned that Matthijs Röling passed away on July 10, 2024. 'Röling belonged to the absolute top of Dutch figurative painting,' said Harry Tupan, general director of the Drents Museum. Matthijs Röling was 81 years old.

Rebellious and successful

Matthijs Röling was one of the leading figurative artists in the Netherlands. After he started teaching at the Minerva Academy in Groningen in 1973, he inspired dozens of young artists. Together they are known as the Northern Realists.

Röling's art is characterised by a love for reality. He often said: 'I just paint what I like.' You can see that. From intimate portraits to blooming gardens: Röling painted reality at its most beautiful.

Although art critics long labeled Röling's work as old-fashioned or traditional, his work was very popular with the public. The works of art were often sold before the opening of an exhibition.

Interior with the Painter and his Model
Starry Sky from Café The Unicorn

Relationship with the Drents Museum

In 1965 Matthijs Röling had his first solo museum exhibition at the Drents Museum. After that time, the relationship between the museum and the artist developed into a warm friendship.

For example, the major retrospective exhibition Mimesis opened in 2005. In addition, the museum has the largest Röling collection in the world, partly thanks to the donation from Cees Röling. With the recent addition of Museum De Buitenplaats in Eelde, the impressive Nijsinghhuis with murals by Röling has also been added.

The museum has been in close contact with Röling recently, including about the recent Röling exhibition in the German Panorama Museum in Bad Frankenhausen, the Röling room in the new collection presentation Labyrinthia and a large overview book about the artist that the museum will present in 2025.

Matthijs Röling, Self portrait, 2007, Drents Museum collection, Long-term loan from Rijksdienst voor Cultureel Erfgoed | C c/o Pictoright Amsterdam 2024

Winter of his life

Matthijs Röling's health had been deteriorating for some time. He stopped painting in 2009 because his right hand could no longer keep going. Last year, around his eightieth birthday, Röling announced that he was in 'the winter of his life'.

The Drents Museum wishes the Röling family a lot of strength in dealing with this loss. The museum will continue to tell Röling's special story in the future. We will remember Matthijs as a warm man, idiosyncratic rebel and a great artist.