Hannah Gal

Maren Enthoven – From Top Model To Master Painter

Painting by Maren Greve Enthoven

Postcards From My Inner Self – Maren Enthoven paints fantasy scenes that are rooted in real life

Maren Greve Enthoven’s colourful paintings have a naive, childlike quality to them. Each painting tells a story, holding within it a multitude of little snippets of human life. Each creation is a journey into a conflict-free, somewhat idyllic outdoors, a multi layered scene beaming with life, made of paths, green fields, white clouds, bees and flowers. Within each painting are little scenes depicting a multitude of casual interactions between humans and nature, humans and animals, and of course humans interacting with each other.

Here, the former model counts her life-long love for painting, the financially rewarding but profoundly superficial world of modelling, being photographed by the likes of David Bailey, marriage to a music industry legend, and letting her inner voice shine through. Maren speaks of her evolving painting style, her love of trees,  and how art has the quiet power to drive away negativity.

I start by asking about the engaging, Naive painting style defined by Tate Modern as “simple, unaffected and unsophisticated, usually specifically refers to art made by artists who have had no formal training in an art school or academy.” 

HG When did you discover painting? 

MGE Ever since I can remember I painted and drew, I’ve been drawing since I could draw probably a year or two years old, for Christmas all I wanted was crayons and paints. It was assumed that I would pursue this path and go to art school but that was not meant to be. My father was disappointed that I didn’t go to art school and I felt quite guilty for not fulfilling his dreams.

Painting by Maren Greve Enthoven. Image courtesy of the artist.

HG You became a globe trotting model photographed by some of the biggest photographers around including David Bailey, did you manage to paint during the modelling years? 

MGE  I didn’t have the time really, I worked very hard, that’s how I bought my house it was all me, my own efforts. I came to London from Denmark and soon started modelling. I had no money from home because my dad wanted me to come back. It was hard work, the glamour world looks effortless on the cover of magazines but it is actually very demanding. I would catch the 5:30- 6AM bus to North London with all my stuff, you had to have white and black underwear and shoes and other stuff, the glamour aspect of modelling is misleading, and in a way, complete rubbish – they make you look a great deal nicer than you really look. I also became a mother which is time consuming and ‘distracting’.

Image courtesy of Maren Greve Enthoven

HG  Your husband was the music industry legend David Enthoven 

MGE  Yes I was married to David Enthoven, the man behind Brian Ferry, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Sia, David Bowie and Massive Attack among others, he is also behind Robbie Williams’s solo career.

HG  Have you always painted in the Naive, childlike painting style?

MGE I have always painted like this but the style has evolved over the years, I have also painted a different kind of fully- figured people but landed on this simplistic approach which seems to really strike a chord with people

HG Trees are prominent in your art

MGE Yes, I have a thing about trees, I grew up in this little town in Denmark, I remember a wood nearby and outside my parents a very big tree Birch tree right outside out front door. To me trees symbolize life – did you know that the roots of the trees meet underneath the ground? to me it is amazing. Also, that a tiny seed grows into a massive tree several metres high, that is amazing to me too. I also put a lot of butterflies and bees into my pictures because without the bees so much of nature wouldn’t be here, also lots of beautiful flowers. To me nature is very much alive, I talk to my trees in the garden – do you remember Prince Charles talking to the trees? My mom did it too, as do I, they are living creatures and we need to respect them

HG Where do your  ideas come from? where do you draw your inspiration?   

MGE  When I paint a picture I have to imagine where I put the trees first, then I do the road because all of the paintings have a road as the connection to other places, I then think of the little stories that are within. Take this one for example, I call it Watermelons In Yorkshire. There are no watermelons fields in Yorkshire I don’t think but this is art, it is my fantasy scene. 

In one scene you see the farmer’s wife, she just collected one watermelon and put it in the wheelbarrow, the trees are in full bloom, there are flowers and bees everywhere, butterflies, little lambs, pigs and horses, I always have horses in my pictures, my father was into horses he also had a farm so this is obviously inspired by my childhood.

HG  I love the person at the top of the hill, sat with his dog, gazing into the distance – this is a postcard image if ever I saw one. In all your works there are people positively interacting with each other and with nature itself, the paintings are beaming with optimism. 

MGE  Yes, it is a picture of life – this is what us humans do, we connect with fellow creatures and people, and we sometimes take a moment or two to reflect

HG  The paintings are multi layered, full of painstakingly executed detail – from the flowers, to the crop in the fields or even a person’s posture – to the observer it looks like you do not cut corners when you paint

MGE There are always layers, the one big story will always hold within it many little stories and hints, sometimes very clear, sometimes symbolic. You are very right with regards to attention to detail, details are important, very important in fact – my husband used to say it is all in the details whatever you do – cleaning your room or painting a masterpiece.

HG  Tell me about the charming, idyllic table scene

Image courtesy of Maren Greve Enthoven

MGE  I took a picture on the day and worked from that. It is the family having a relaxing, playful time in the garden. There is David, sitting with his back to the camera looking at everything and everyone, people gathered around the table, plenty of food, baby on a blanket, toys, a buggy and the family dog resting happily on the grass. I put myself in at the end of the table – this is a snapshot of life.

HG Happy Butterflies is another example of this multi-layered, highly detailed scene that is full of activity, the detail again is astounding 

MGE There are sweet happy bees and butterflies happy bees and butterflies – bees are important because without them very little of nature would exist, there is a man with ha in his hands, another man gathering flowers that fell off the blooming tree, a man holding a stick with his dog attentively watching, well defined white clouds and right at the top a couple and their dog looking into the open sea. 

Happy Butterflies by Maren Greve Enthoven. Image courtesy of the artist.

HG The painting style is in complete harmony with the subject matter – it is the simplistic, childlike approach that nails it, the beauty is in the treatment itself

MGE  I agree, you know I went to the Royal Academy and talked to one of the teachers there, I told her that I  always felt guilty for disappointing my dad and not going to art school. Do you know what she told me? She said it was the best thing in the world for you, that you never went to art school because you haven’t been messed with – this is why your personal style is so strong.

Maren Enthoven’s top modelling days. Photograph by David Bailey. Image courtesy of Maren Greve Enthoven

HG This is what true art is about, conveying your true inner self

MGE Yes, this is very true, when we look at an art for,  it’s nice if it is something that we can connect with, that resonates with us. I was told that every scene, every piece in my paintings is a postcard – little postcards from life that connect when put together. It was my niece Rikke Salto who is an accomplished creative in her own right, a textile designer practicing in Denmark. Her husband Kasper Salto is very famous, his grandfather has done all the murals on the big Museums in Copenhagen. Kasper has his own show on architecture in Denmark

HG The journey from the all-about-appearance modelling world, to these insightful painting is very interesting

MGE It is about your spirit at the end of the day, it is who you are inside that determines how you approach life. This is even truer for me personally because being a model is all about the outside, everything is about how you look, it is very superficial. Having had a superficial job for a long time is not healthy for your head – when I paint I become myself

About the Author
Hannah’s credits include Quillette, The Critic, The SpectatorUS, UnHerd, Creative Review, The Guardian (Art&Design) and The Jerusalem Post among others. Hannah’s posts have been kindly retweeted and shared by Jordan Peterson, Douglas Murray, Warren Farrell, Sebastian Gorka, Will Knowland and Christina Hoff Sommers among others. Gal is a multi award winning documentary filmmaker.
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