Landscapes are rare in Tuymans’ work, and are often based on models rather than observations of the outside world. The result is a stage-set appearance which seems to relate to the staged landscapes and scenery of film and television. This is also linked to Tuymans’ belief that painting is at one remove from actual events, and therefore has an in-built artifice.

Tuymans was attracted at an early age to the paintings of Edward Hopper, currently on show in another exhibition at Tate Modern, which also have a staged, filmic quality. ‘I have always liked Edward Hopper’, Tuymans has said, ‘because he didn’t paint real figures. To me they are like puppets. I regard Hopper’s work as though it were a toy, not a painting.’

Model-making can be seen as a form of megalomania - fantasies of omnipotence can be played out through the construction of a perfect miniature world. Tuymans associates this with the miracle of German economic and social reconstruction after the Second World War. The paintings in this room all resonate with the work of Edward Hopper; the scenes appear contrived and staged, and the mannequin-like figures are frozen mid-action. In the disturbing works The Cry 1989 and Suspended 1989, Tuymans has transformed the suburban idyll into a dislocated, unnatural place with an air of the uncanny.

Luc Tuymans The Cry 1989

Luc Tuymans
The Cry 1989
Private collection
© The artist, courtesy Zeno X Gallery and David Zwirner, New York. Photo credit: Felix Tirry.