Marlene Dumas was born in Cape Town, South Africa. From 1972 to 1975 she attended Cape Town University, where she studied for a BA in Visual Arts. She then completed her studies in Haarlem, in the Netherlands.
She has lived and worked in Amsterdam since 1976. From 1978 she has exhibited internationally, and is one of Holland’s most widely admired artists. In 1995 she represented Holland in the Venice Biennale, and in 1996 the Tate Gallery exhibited a selection of her works on paper.
In the past Dumas produced paintings, collages, drawings, prints and installations. She now works mainly with oil on canvas and ink on paper. The sources she uses for her imagery are diverse and include newspaper and magazine cuttings, personal memorabilia, Flemish paintings, and Polaroid photographs. The majority of her works may be categorised as ‘portraits’, but they are not portraits in the traditional sense. Rather than representing an actual person, they represent an emotion or a state of mind. Themes central to Dumas’ work include race and sexuality, guilt and innocence, violence and tenderness.