- A renowned Dutch photographer renowned for his diverse portfolio, including captivating images of Amsterdam’s gay nightlife and portraits of the Dutch royal family, has died aged 64.
- Erwin Olaf’s highly stylized photographs were exhibited in galleries around the world throughout his extensive career.
- His website stated that Olaf had recently undergone a lung transplant, his sudden deterioration leading to his untimely death.
Erwin Olaf, an acclaimed Dutch photographer whose work documented subjects ranging from Amsterdam’s gay nightlife to portraits of the Dutch royal family, has died. He was 64.
Olaf’s highly stylized photographs, with lighting often influenced by Dutch painters Rembrandt van Rijn and Johannes Vermeer, were exhibited in galleries around the world during a career spanning decades.
His website included a statement that Olaf had recently undergone a lung transplant.
“Recovery seemed to be going very well. He suddenly became unwell on Wednesday morning and CPR had no effect. He will be terribly missed,” it added.
Taco Dibbits, director of the Rijksmuseum, paid tribute in a statement on the Amsterdam museum’s website.
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“Erwin Olaf saw the beauty in every person. He is historically significant because of his activism and his role in the LGBTIQ+ community,” said Dibich.
He called Olaf “an artist of enormous drive and a very good eye for detail. The Rijksmuseum received its core collection in 2018 and considered Erwin Olaf a true friend. We will miss him.”
Olaf was made a Knight of the Order of the Lion of the Netherlands after 500 of his works were added to the Rijksmuseum collection.
He worked in advertising – once portraying nuns in jeans for a clothing company – as well as in the world of high art and portraiture.
Over the years, he has taken portraits of King Willem-Alexander and his family, and in 2013 he designed the Dutch side of a new euro coin bearing the image of the king when Willem-Alexander ascended the throne.
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In March, Willem-Alexander awarded Olaf the Dutch Royal House Medal of Honor for Art and Science. It honored him for “using a bold approach to portraiture to address issues such as ethnicity, sexual diversity and economic inequality.”
In a reaction to his death, Willem-Alexander and Maxima said the Netherlands had “lost a unique, extremely talented photographer and a great artist”.
“We will miss his friendship,” they added in a statement posted on social media. “His work lives on and continues to be fascinating and moving.”