‘One of the best works’ by painter Rein Dool has been removed by Leiden University: ‘Incredibly narrow-minded’

‘One of the best works’ by painter Rein Dool has been removed by Leiden University: ‘Incredibly narrow-minded’
‘One of the best works’ by painter Rein Dool has been removed by Leiden University: ‘Incredibly narrow-minded’

He calls it “one of his best works.” The 90-year-old painter Rein Dool is still proud of the painting he made in the mid-1970s, of the board of Leiden University: six serious-looking men, fat cigars in their mouths. It hung on the wall of a conference room for 55 years, but was removed at the end of last week. The painting depicts, among others, Dolf Cohen, a former rector who survived the war by going into hiding.

People with a Twitter account were able to closely follow the ‘take away’ process over the past week, as if it were a live stream. It started with a tweet from a Leiden PhD student, who took a photo of the painting. She wondered if the canvas didn’t deserve an ironic or critical caption.

Two days later, a dean of the university shared a photo of the canvas being removed from the wall by university staff. ‘Done’, a professor then tweeted, with a photo in which the painting is turned upside down against the wall. No more traces of the smoking men, but a fuss on Twitter. And in the real world: Member of Parliament Hatte van der Woude (VVD) announced on Monday that he would ask parliamentary questions, because it stands for something bigger. “Where does this stop?” she wondered. “It is not a fundamental right not to feel hurt.” Professor Remco Breuker of Leiden University had great difficulty with the fact that the depicted Dolf Cohen was placed with his face towards the wall.

Time frame

Rein Dool finds the removal of the canvas “incredibly narrow-minded”. He has made a picture of the time, he says. “That executive council smoked like a heretic, that room was blue with smoke. I have been there several times and signed that board as I have seen them.” He thinks it is “very strange” that no one from the university has called him.

But, says a spokesperson for Leiden University, no decision has yet been made about what will happen to the painting. Since 2011, according to the university, there have been annual comments and complaints about the painting. This is mainly due to the room where it hangs: a small space, which would make the image of the five men even more dominant. Complainants feel ‘unrepresented’ by the work.

The spokesperson emphasizes that the painting has not been officially removed, it was a “spontaneous and playful action” by two employees. The Executive Council considers the action a good starting point for a discussion. The work is still in space until a decision is made. The university believes it is important that a discussion is held about the subject, to start with internally.

Rein Dool says he wants the painting back if the university no longer wants it. His phone rings continuously, because of “this whole thing”. The painter likes so much interest in his old age. “In that respect, every disadvantage also has an advantage.”

Also read: Is there still room for art between ‘safe space’ and ‘freezone’?

The article is in Dutch

Tags: works painter Rein Dool removed Leiden University Incredibly narrowminded

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