Marlene Dumas, German Witch, 2000. Ink and acrylic on paper, 90 1/4 x 35 1/2 inches (229.2 x 90.2 cm). Gift of Beth and Anthony Terrana. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York/London/Hong Kong. Mayer Photography. © Marlene Dumas
Marlene Dumas makes expressive figurative oil paintings and watercolor drawings that explore the multiple dimensions of love, beauty, the body, and sexuality. She finds inspiration for her paintings, which often feature women, from source material that includes fashion photography, newspaper clippings, film, fine art, and pornography. Dumas also uses loaded imagery to provoke strong emotional responses from viewers.
German Witch is a characteristic example of Dumas’s large-scale watercolors, rendered with a finely modulated monochromatic wash and additional tonal accents. The effect is both fluid and sensuous, recalling something of the fleshy nudes of her Flemish forebear Peter Paul Rubens. As befits a witch, the image has its mysterious side. The figure turns to look over her shoulder, yet we do not know what she sees. At the same time, our attention is drawn to the stick protruding from her behind: how, we might wonder, will such a tiny broomstick keep such an ample witch aloft?
In 2001, Dumas had a memorable exhibition at the ICA/Boston, and with this history in mind, the ICA has acquired a number of her major works. German Witch joins the ICA’s important collection of art made by women, enriching the museum’s strength in figurative works and expanding the holdings with a major work on paper.