Photographer reimagines 17th century Dutch paintings with a modern twist

In his series, titled Cityscapes, artist Casper Faassen bridges the past with the present through painting and photography.

Inspired by the works of famous 17th-century Dutch painters like Jan van Goyen, the Netherlands-based creative traveled to different cities to try and capture the subject matter in the same style, but in the modern-day setting

For instance, one of the older images, called View of The Hague, shows the city back when it wasn’t a city. Faassen’s image shows the cityscape in the same aesthetic, albeit now with urban sprawl.

Original view of The Hague

Casper Faassen’s view of The Hague

Speaking to Lost At E Minor, he explained the process of making the striking photos.

“The work is built up with a photograph printed on glass, on the back of which the artist blocks certain areas with paint. Therefore the picture remains transparent in other areas, letting the background of metal leaf, acids and paint play a more significant role.

“The surrounding light affects the mood of the work as it reflects or absorbs light differently on different hours of the day. That’s one of the reasons the work doesn’t always resemble its reproduction on websites or printed media.”

Original view of Dordrecht

Casper Faassen’s view of Dordrecht

We recently caught up with Faassen to learn more about him and his work. Take a look:

Tell us about the process of creating one of these incredible cityscapes.

“I’m looking for old perspectives on new cities. Using a bird’s eye view to get the recognizable monuments and canals is most times the best way to catch the city in one shot.

“So in the case of Den Haag, where drones are strictly forbidden due to the airport, all embassies and government buildings, I managed to get access to the highest building roofs to see what vantage point works best.

“The best view of the city came from the roof of the Ministry of Infrastructure. It was great that the minister opened the exhibition later on.

“I digitally work on the photo to get the best sky/land ratio, contrast, and whites. The whites become transparent as I print on a transparent acrylic. When framing there is a four centimetre space between the work and the background of gold leaf metal.

“Where I don’t want the background to be visible, I paint white. The golden sky reflects the surrounding light so the work changes during the day. Golden skies for a 17th century golden age theme.

“The final layer is varnished craquelé. My symbol for time, emphasizing the role photographers and painters have in freezing the moment and eternalize what usually passes.”

Casper Faassen’s view of Haarlem

Where does your interest in this creative medium stem from?

“Ever since I first saw Rembrandt’s Nachtwacht, I’ve always been drawing and painting. He was born in Leiden, and first painted, so that was very compelling to a young boy walking around the city on the stones he once walked. I guess the fascination for the old masters never faded.

“I switched to photography once I thought my ‘studies’ for the paintings got a quality of themselves and realized that painting them would not add anything. Technically, though, I approach my photographs as paintings, building them up in various layers.”

Casper Faassen’s view of Leiden

Who are some of the other cityscapers whose work inspires you?

“I love Salomon and Jacob van Ruysdael. Johannes Vermeer’s view on Delft is amazing, and William Turner’s seascapes are also very inspirational.”

What next for you?

“Morandi has all of my attention right now. Another traditional genre is the still live and from painters as Bosschaert, De Heem and Bailly I eventually came to the subdued sublime works by Morandi.

“Using filters between me and the vases, pots and flowers, I aim to get that same desaturated stilled feel. Hope I can build on that. Having a lot of fun with it already!”

You can learn more about Casper Faassen and his work here.