Luc Tuymans (born 14 June 1958) is a Belgian visual artist best known for his paintings which explore people's relationship with history and confront their ability to ignore it. World War II is a recurring theme in his work. He is a key figure of the generation of European figurative painters who gained renown at a time when many believed the medium had lost its relevance due to the new digital age. Much of Tuymans' work deals with moral complexity, specifically the coexistence of 'good' and 'evil'. His subjects range from major historical events such as the Holocaust to the seemingly inconsequential or banal: wallpaper, Christmas decorations or everyday objects for example.
The artist's sparsely-coloured figurative paintings are made up of quick brush strokes of wet paint. Tuymans paints from photographic or cinematic images drawn from the media or public sphere, as well as from his own photographs and drawings. They often appear intentionally out of focus. The blurred effect is, however, created purposefully with painted strokes, it is not the result of a 'wiping away' technique. Formal and conceptual oppositions recur in his work, which is echoed in his remark that while 'sickness should appear in the way the painting is made' there is also pleasure in its making – a 'caressing' of the canvas. This reflects Tuymans' semantic shaping of the philosophical content of his work. Often allegorical, his titles add a further layer of imagery to his work – a layer that exists beyond the visible. The painting Gaskamer (Gas Chamber) exemplifies his use of titles to provoke associations in the mind of the viewer. Meaning, in his work, is never fixed; his paintings incite thought. A related characteristic of Tuymans' work is the way he often works in series, a method which enables one image to generate another through which images can be formulated and reformulated ad infinitum. Images are repeatedly analysed and distilled, and a large number of drawings, photocopies and watercolours are produced in preparation for his oil paintings. Each final painting is, however, completed in a single day.