The painting in question. Photo: Leiden University
A row has broken out over the removal of a painting of ‘cigar smoking old men’ from the wall of the Faculty Club at Leiden University.
The painting, depicting university board members and dating from the mid-1970s, was taken off the wall following a remark by political scientist Elina Zorina on Twitter, suggesting the painting needed an ‘ironic or critical’ explanatory note.
The issue was noted by law faculty dean Joanne van der Leun. ‘I spent a large part of my career in spaces filled with men and paintings of men. It [the painting] can go, as far as I’m concerned. And I’m assuming it will happen soon,’ she said on Twitter. The cigar smoking was particularly odious, she said. ‘I hate that’.
The picture was removed from the wall a short while later but, according to the NRC, it remains in the room facing the wall while a decision is taken about what to do with it. The university has also said the removal was not done officially.
Immediate action was taken today @UniLeiden 😀!! pic.twitter.com/vJwfr7FmGm
— Joanne van der Leun (@JoannevdLeun) November 10, 2022

The Twitter spat has divided the university with head of Leiden university libraries Jos Damen saying removing the painting shows ‘a lack of understanding of the past’. And physics professor Sense Jan van der Molen said he had always regarded the painting as ‘a subtle protest against cigar smoking men in suits’.
These were the men in power at Leiden University around 1976- Cath, Cohen, Hofstee, Gevers, Kuenen @UniLeiden. Removing this (wink!) painting by Rein Dool doesn’t demonstrate any understanding of the past. It would have been more powerful to contradict with different paintings. pic.twitter.com/yI6cYOwSSD
— Jos Damen (@ASCLibrary) November 11, 2022

Artist Rein Dool (90) who painted the picture said the move was ‘incredible and very stupid’. ‘It’s one of my best works.’ He told the Telegraaf.
Note: this article was updated on Monday evening to reflect comment by the university.

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