Dutch portrait artist Erwin Olaf dead at 64: report

World-renowned Dutch photographer Erwin Olaf has died after a long fight with lung disease, Dutch media reported Wednesday. He was 64.

Know for his still-life portraits — often depicting life’s seedier side, the taboo, or even the bizarre, Olaf’s pictures have drawn crowds around the world from Spain to Shanghai.

“The world-famous photographer Erwin Olaf has died. His family released the news,” the NOS public broadcaster said.

Olaf had suffered from emphysema since 1996 and recently undergone a lung transplant.

“He was getting better, but suddenly became unwell. Efforts to resuscitate him failed,” the NOS said, quoting a person close to Olaf’s family.

“Olaf had a great reputation worldwide and was perhaps the best-known photographer in the Netherlands,” it added.

He first gained fame in the 1980s with a series of extreme nudes and in 2000 he riled fans of the British monarchy by depicting various royals through history in bloody death scenes — including one portrait entitled “Lady Di”, the late Princess of Wales.

An Amsterdam native, Olaf’s later works became more introspective, but his eye for the nude remained and it was a recurring theme in his work.

His pictures commented on the human condition, with black and whites depicting nudes of all sizes — or dulled colours, recalling pictures taken in the 1960s.

“Often dubbed cinematic, it is always rich, beautiful, expansive, and playful,” Time Magazine wrote about his 2013 exhibition called “Berlin” set in the German capital.

“It straddles the worlds of commercial, art and fashion photography at once, and often pokes fun at each,” it said.

Olaf was also a torch-bearer for LGBTQ+ rights and he received a Dutch knighthood for his work fighting for the rights of the gay community on his 60th birthday.

Asked about his disease at the time of his 60th, Olaf told the Algemeen Dagblad: “I wake up with emphysema and go to bed with it, but it is not an all-consuming topic.”

He often served as the national portrait artist for the Dutch royal family and in March this year was awarded the Dutch Medal of Honour for Art and Science by King Willem-Alexander. (AFP)

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