Marlene Dumas


Born in Cape Town, South Africa, and grows up on a wine farm as the third child of Helena Sophia Mans and Petrus Johannes Dumas, who dies when she is 12.

1972 – 1975
Attends Cape Town University, takes a B.A. Fine Arts Degree and Ethics (moral philosophy) as a subsidiary course. Buys a polaroid camera. Apartheid legislation governs South Africa.

1976 – 1978
Goes to the Netherlands to study art at Ateliers ‘63 in Haarlem. Her contribution in the group show Atelier 15: 10 Young Artists at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam in 1978 is barely noticed by art critics, who mainly express appreciation for René Daniëls’ works. Makes her first sale to a museum: Don’t Talk to Strangers, to the Stedelijk.

1980 – 1982
Visits the Munch Museum and falls in love with Edvard Munch’s Alpha and Omega series. Studies psychology for a year at Amsterdam University, and decides not to become an art therapist. Rudi Fuchs invites Dumas and Daniëls to participate in Documenta 7, where they are among the youngest artists.

1983 – 1984
Starts teaching drawing in Tilburg, where Daniëls is a tutor of painting. First solo museum show, Ons land licht lager dan de zee, at Centraal Museum in Utrecht in 1984 shows mostly collaged works on paper.

1985 – 1987
For the first time shows only paintings, at Galerie Paul Andriesse in Amsterdam: The Eyes of the Nightcreatures features large-scale portraits, ‘situations’, relating to the close-ups she admires in films like Dreyer’s La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (1928). The painting The Yellow Fingers of the Artist is a portrait of Daniëls, and Genetic Longing of his girlfriend at the time. Starts writing short commentaries for her exhibitions. During the 80s Dumas and Daniëls are shown in various institutions outside the Netherlands, presented under the group label Dutch Artists, as in Vindsulor at Konsthallen in Gothenburg and Bienal de São Paulo in 1985 as well as in Innovation and Tradition in Karlsruhe 1986 and Art from Europe at the Tate in London 1987.

1988 – 1989
Ulrich Bischoff invites her to present her first solo museum exhibition abroad, at the Kunsthalle zu Kiel: Waiting (for Meaning), about the semiotics of the naked female body. Marlene and Jan Andriesse’s daughter Helena is born in 1989. Three months later her solo exhibition The Question of Human Pink, curated by Ulrich Loock, opens at Kunsthalle Bern.

1991 – 1993
Works intensively with clients and therapists for several years on the commissioned work for the psychiatric centre Het Hooghuys. In 1992, Miss Interpreted, her first extensive show in the Netherlands, opens at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven and then tours Europe and the US. The same year she particpates in Documenta 9, curated by Jan Hoet. 1993 brings her first solo exhibition at Zeno X Gallery in Antwerp, entitled Give the People What They Want. The group exhibition Der Zerbrochene Spiegel, Positionen zur Malerei, featuring both her and Daniëls, is shown in Vienna and Hamburg.

Not From Here, first New York solo show, at Tilton Gallery. Exhibits The Painter for the first time. Her young daughter acts as the artist’s alter ego. In the Dublin show Chlorosis, on being lovesick, green is the dominant colour throughout.

Represents the Netherlands in the Dutch pavillion at the Biennale di Venezia, with Marijke van Warmerdam and Maria Roosen. The Particularity of Being Human, coupling works by Francis Bacon and Dumas, is shown at Malmö Konsthall and Castello di Rivoli in Turin.

1998 – 1999
Publishes her book Sweet Nothings: Notes & Texts, and Phaidon launches the first edition of a Dumas monography. In 1999, Frith Street Gallery in London shows MD-light, an exhibition celebrating eroticism. A few months later her work is included in Trouble Spot: Painting, curated by Luc Tuymans, at MUHKA in Antwerp.

2000 – 2004
The exhibition MD travels to Henie Onstad outside Oslo. Stripping Girls is the result of a collaboration with photographer Anton Corbijn, and for inspiration they visit night clubs in Amsterdam’s Red Light District. 2001: Nom de Personne, a retrospective of drawings curated by Jonas Storsve, starts at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. In 2004, Frith Street Gallery shows The Second Coming; works made after a visit to Caravaggio’s painting of Santa Lucia. They focus on female religious and political martyrs, and are first presented in Syracuse in the exhibition M+M with Marijke van Warmerdam.

Mankind at Galerie Paul Andriesse shows portraits of Mediterranean male types and one (female) skull, inspired by the 24-year-old Charlotte Corday who assassinated Marat.

2007 – 2009
A retrospective adapted to three continents: Japan, Broken White; South Africa, Intimate Relations; Los Angeles, Houston and at New York’s MoMA, Measuring Your Own Grave. In the group exhibition Anos 80: Uma Topologia at Museu Serralves in Porto, Dumas and Daniëls are seen together again. For Whom the Bell Tolls at Zeno X Gallery in 2009 reflects on the death of Dumas’ mother, who died at noon on 12 September 2007.

2010 – 2011
Against the Wall, first solo exhibition at David Zwirner Gallery in New York. Continues with the tragedies of the Middle East, especially the wall separating Israel and Palestine: Mothers mourn their sons. In 2011, in Forsaken at Frith Street Gallery, fathers sacrifice their sons. Works include portraits of Osama bin Laden and his son and of music producer Phil Spector, jailed for murder. Receives the Rolf Schock Prize in Stockholm; the event is accompanied by a small show at the Moderna Museet, compiled by Sune Nordgren.

2012 – 2015
Is awarded the Vermeer Prize and donates it to de Ateliers. 2013: Twice, exhibition at Zeno X Gallery with Luc Tuymans, with whom she is often compared in regard to the use of photography as a source of figuration. Participates at Manifesta in St. Petersburg 2014. Shows her ongoing ink-wash series Great Men; portraits with texts by famous gay men criminalised for their sexuality. In 2014 – 2015, the retrospective The Image as Burden is shown at the Stedelijk Museum, Tate Modern and the Beyeler Foundation. In 2015, An Appetite for Painting. Contemporary Painting, 2000 – 2015, is shown at the National Museum in Oslo.

2016 – 2017
Power of the Avant-Garde – Now and then, at Bozar in Brussels. Writes the short article “Why I like Munch”. Publication of the book Venus & Adonis, Shakespeare’s narrative poem from 1593 translated into Dutch by Hafid Bouazza – it is the first time Dumas illustrates a poem. 2017: Unveiling of commissioned altar- piece in St. Anne’s church in Dresden, a collaboration with Jan Andriesse and Bert Boogaard.

After eight years, second show at David Zwirner Gallery: Myths & Mortals. Drawing series Venus & Adonis forms the centre of the exhibition, with works about transformations inspired by the sensuality of Shakespeare and the energy gained by reflecting on Munch.

2019 – 2020
Invited to give the Huizingalezing in November 2019, an annual lecture in the domain of cultural and art history organised by Leiden University since 1972 in honour of Johan Huizinga, a distinguished historian (1872-1945). Double Takes, solo exhibition at Zeno X Gallery, Antwerp, in 2020, which includes works to illustrate Baudelaire’s Le Spleen de Paris. H401, Amsterdam shows work from Dumas in Shame! And Masculinity, a group exhibition that addresses the complexity and contradictions of male identities from male and female perspectives. 

Ouverture, opening exhibition of newly opened Bourse du Commerce / Collection Pinault in Paris. Close-Up, group exhibition in Foundation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, with work from eight other female artists from 1870 until now.  Invited by Musée d’Orsay, Paris, for a solo exhibition of her work for Le Spleen de Paris on the occasion of Baudelaire’s 200th celebration year of birth. In the same museum, Conversations, with three contemporary pieces by Dumas shown within the Impressionists collection.

2022 – 2023
open-end, solo exhibition at Palazzo Grassi – Collection Pinault in Venice, Italy. 

Adapted and expanded biography from: Marlene Dumas, Trine Otte Bak Nielsen. Omega’s Eyes. Marlene Dumas on Edvard Munch, guest star René Daniëls. Oslo: Munch Museum, 2018