The cheeky realism of Peter van Poppel

Annick Bettink, Dealer Relations Gallerease
Annick Bettink
Dealer Relations
46 Articles3 Curated artworks

"An elusive sense of humour, a light-footed kind of symbolism with a gentle seriousness." That would be the best way to describe the work by Peter Van Poppel (1945). 

Van Poppel belongs to the post war generation of a group of painters described as the "Utrechtse School", like J. H. Moesman and D. Zwerver. His paintings often depict sweet, sometimes fairy tale-like figures, as if he is searching for something magic, reminiscent of a childhood.

Although Van Poppel’s work looks very contemporary, a connoisseur will immediately recognize the influences by old masters such as Rembrandt or Carel Fabritius.


The work of Van Poppel, often modestly sized, remains intriguing. Van Poppel paints gently, paying attention to and indicating a love for detail.

The scenes that he depicts sometimes seem ordinary, but then gradually rise beyond reality. The painter creates a dreamy fantasy world full of hidden and iconographic meanings, making references to other works.

These enchanting works of art are always subject to multiple interpretations. Although his figures seem naive and innocent at first sight, they seem to cherish desires and secrets.

Peter van Poppel, Groot Atelier, 1974-1978.

Peter van Poppel considers the painting 'Groot Atelier' to be the key to his entire oeuvre. In his studio, this masterpiece is surrounded by smaller paintings and objects, its entirety forming a game of associations and references. This gives birth to a new iconography, which makes him one of the most specific artists of his generation.

In 'Groot Atelier', there is so much to see that it’s tempting to draw lines to other paintings, to compare the details. For example, the iconic bird ‘het puttertje’ by Carel Fabritius also appears in the upper right-hand corner of the painting. It has been painted in the same sensitive yet bright manner, using the intimate light that is so characteristic of Fabritius.

Peter van Poppel, Geboorte van Venus, 2006. Peter van Poppel, Kleine blote kont, 1975. 

Once you have become acquainted with his oeuvre, you will not forget about it again. Van Poppel incorporates a very subtle sense of humour in his work. He plays with established art historical symbols such as Venus.

Venus has been depicted in thousands of different ways over the years, often with a certain mythological value embedded into it. But usually not as casual as in the case of Van Poppel, surfing the waves.

Peter van Poppel, Harde zit, 2012. 

Peter van Poppel is represented by renowned galleries such as Galerie Lieve Hemel. His work features at international art fairs including Art Amsterdam, The Realism Fair, PAN Amsterdam and TEFAF. At the upcoming PAN fair (19-26 november 2017), you will find the work of Van Poppel at Gallery Lieve Hemel, featuring some of his latest works, with a cheeky touch of course.

Written by Annick Bettink on 07 May 2018, 09:00 Category Artist Profiles