Face of Flanders: “A Belgian Politician”


Luc Tuymans, Flanders' greatest living painter, is being accused of breach of intellectual property rights over a 2011 work that he claims is a parody

Photo by De Standaard

Damages claim of €50,000

“A Belgian Politician” is the title of a 2011 painting by Luc Tuymans, considered by many to be Belgium’s greatest living painter. Last week a civil case was brought against the Antwerp artist accusing him of breach of intellectual property rights.

According to photographer Katrijn Van Giel, who works for De Standaard, the painting is a direct copy of her 2010 portrait of maverick MP Jean-Marie Dedecker. Van Giel is claiming damages of €50,000, intended to deter Tuymans from making further reproductions.

Van Giel’s depiction of Dedecker shows him cut off at the jawline and centres on his forehead. The painting not only repeats the unusual framing, but also exaggerates even more Dedecker’s sweaty brow.

Tuymans has admitted using the photo as inspiration but denies it is a copy. His work, he claims, is a parody. The law on copyrights, he argues, allows an original work to be transformed for the purposes of parody.

“Humour and parody are not restricted to slapstick,” argues Tuymans’ lawyer Michael De Vroey. “Luc Tuymans wanted to create a strong image to deliver a critique of the move to the right wing in Belgian society. His work is therefore more than just a painted version of a photo. The format and colour contrasts are different, so that no confusion could be possible.”

Counsel for the plaintiff, Dieter Delarue, replied: “Of course they will now say it’s a parody, since that is the only way to escape judgement. To my knowledge, Luc Tuymans is not really best known for his humorous works. This defence is more of a parody than the work itself.”

A judgement is expected by 22 January.