Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Art History


Emily Braun

Committee Members

Amy Herzog

Romy Golan

Marja Bosma

Subject Categories

Dutch Studies | Film and Media Studies | Fine Arts | Holocaust and Genocide Studies | Modern Art and Architecture | Visual Studies


Pyke Koch, Carel Willink, Charley Toorop, Raoul Hynckes, Dick Ket, Wim Schuhmacher, Neorealism, Neorealists, Magic Realism


This dissertation takes as its subject Dutch Magic Realism, also known as “Neorealism,” an unsettling style of figurative painting developed by Dutch painters Pyke Koch, Carel Willink, Charley Toorop, Raoul Hynckes, Dick Ket, and Wim Schuhmacher during a moment of rising totalitarian regimes in neighboring countries and the Nazi Occupation of The Netherlands. Like their European counterparts, these Dutch Magic Realists conveyed the experience of modern alienation by perversely appropriating stylistic characteristics and iconographic motifs of revered national schools of painting – in their case, Early Netherlandish and Northern Renaissance traditions.

The fortunes of Neorealism exemplify the pressures brought to bear – professional, personal, and ideological – on visual representation of the Dutch “people” in a country deemed “Aryan” by Nazi ideologues and occupiers. I show how the Neorealist style negotiated these pressures by methods of an “estranged” and modern realism directly inspired by film. I demonstrate how the Neorealists, as dedicated film goers, incorporated specific devices, such as the close-up, stark cinematic lighting effects, and subjective point-of-view shots in order to portray Dutch national identity in crisis. I examine the ways that all of these artists expressed ambivalence towards the National Socialist regime and the manner in which they either resisted or succumbed to of the organizing body of the Nederlandse Kultuurkamer (Dutch Chamber of Culture), which controlled all aspects of artistic production during the War. This project opens to door for further study into the influence of the cinema on early-twentieth-century painting, which is often overlooked, but it also examines multivalence of figurative painting, and its use—and in some cases its cooption—by totalitarian regimes during this period.

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