The Still Life(s) of Chantal Akerman: Akerman’s Moving Images and Dutch 17th-Century Painting

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Throughout her career, the Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman accelerated the erosion of boundaries separating the visual arts that has fuelled our current moment of mixed media. This article, though, takes different approach to Akerman’s work. It argues that her cinema borrows from a historical type of viewing experience just as much as it pioneered new ones. Specifically, I argue that Akerman drew on the painterly language of seventeenth-century Dutch still-lifes through her use of stillness, texture, space, light, and (self-)portraiture that undermines mainstream modes of visual representation as developed by Renaissance art. Relying on contemporary film theory, art history, and Akerman’s own idiosyncratic style and biography, this essay yields a productive, if unexpected, point of comparison between the aesthetic practices of early modern Dutch painting and Akerman’s moving images. Comparing several of Akerman’s pictures to a handful of masterpieces of seventeenth-century Dutch art, this work joins a growing discourse among visual theorists in exploring connections between cinema and painting more broadly.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-278
Number of pages16
JournalDutch Crossing
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Akerman
  • art
  • cinema
  • painting
  • still-life

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • General Arts and Humanities
  • Sociology and Political Science


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