Miniature paintings in a new avtaar

Olaf Van Cleef describes himself as a traveller, an artist and an author. He is the scion of Van Cleef dynasty and is a counselor on high range jewellery at Cartier since 1982. Olaf first visited India, to present the Cartiers of Paris as a group that cherished its Indian connection and the Indian heritage, and was so enthralled by this culturally rich vivacious country that he returned to the sub-continent time and again … and again…
For, Olaf Van Cleef was seeking sustenance for his personal philosophy of oneness with the fellowmen and discovered, in India, decisive faith: that in the rich cultural soul of this country he would find the wherewithal to satisfy his soul.

Presenting some of his paintings inspired by India and the art of miniature paintings below. Mythology and Indian iconography have been beautifully portrayed by Olaf using his style of painting using abstract pointillism and tachisme


More of Olaf ‘s work in mosaics can be found here



  1. welcome sur my Facebook adress…all the newpaintings are in the pictures



  2. Anonymous

    one copy of the times of India

    Vishnu, Lakshmi and Swarovski
    9 Mar 2008,
    Bachi Karkaria meets a Frenchman who retells our mythology through diamonds and chocolate wrappers.

    If you are born a Van Cleef and have spent your adult years working for Cartier, you would have enough identity crisis for one lifetime. But the high jewellery adviser of the fabled house has also turned his hand to painting. He’s a Frenchman portraying Hindu mythology, a diamond man who depends on Swarovski crystals and silver ‘shokolat’-wrapping paper. Mon Ram! Hey Dieu. How confusing can you get.

    No one would laugh at these ironies as heartily as the droll Olaf Van Cleef himself. He has invited three of us to dinner at the Taj’s Elephanta Suite, his Mumbai address every time I’ve met him in India since the early 1990s. The opulence begins at the elevator, from where a liveried minion escorts us down the wrought iron corridor of the Heritage wing. Inside, from amidst the storied flower arrangements and Jodhaa-grade brocade, our host emerges in designer bermudas, grinning wickedly.

    I tease him that he now truly deserves to be called Podgy. I had used this adjective in the first piece I wrote on him. It had obviously hit a soft spot, for he has signed himself thus in all our sustained correspondence these past 15 years. He has always also prefixed this with ‘One thousand kisses’, which, like his story-telling, sounds much better said than read because of his French accent and gay expressiveness.

    Both account for his heightened sensibilities, but thank insomnia for his actually taking up painting so seriously. “I wake up at two, and then what do I do? So I start.” From an open suitcase shrouded in a pristine hotel towel, he pulls out a portfolio, and presents a singularly bad piece of abstract art. But like a child he cannot hold his deception; he bursts out laughing, and brings out the real thing.

    I’d seen the emailed versions, but the original is something else. It features the Hindu pantheon saved from death by oleograph thanks to his Western aesthetic. The classical tableau of Ram, Sita and Lakshman complete with a kneeling Hanuman, Vishnu on his Shesha, and his Narasimha avatar, Ganesh, and to my secular eye the most appealing, a painting in the Kangra miniature style with its Swarovski flowers. The austerity of the drawings (in three shades of black, with three widths of nibs, ranging from 2mm to 0.5mm) is compensated for by the ornamentation—shiny, profuse, painstaking.

    There are 15 works on thick chiffon paper that sell at around a lakh each. He mentions the grammage but I miss it in the distractions of monkeys, tigers and parakeets in segueing pastels of pink, green and yellow, the dotted lines like serpentine ectoplasm, the Warli-inspired figures, and most of all the glittering mosaic of crystals and paper which could drive a magpie mad.

    Olaf describes the art of gluing with greater passion than he speaks of his draughtsmanship. Legitimately so for the Swarovski adornments are set with the eye and precision of a Cartier tiara, the squares of coloured foil are as tiny and flimsy. I realise that adhesive exactitude is as vital as pigment precision. One learns every day in this profession, with the bonus of making friends being the cherie on the cake.

    Olaf will exhibit at the Pundole Gallery in Mumbai, a city that has known him only as the Cartier man. ‘Shennai’, ‘Calcoota’ and ‘Pondisherry’ have been luckier, anointed as places where “the people are chic and cooltoored”, the two must-haves in the Van Cleef roster of acceptability. No, he does not want to exhibit in his native Paris or even London, “they will not understand.” So much for ‘India Everywhere’.

    His own India story began long ago, a wonderland unveiled by Alice, his Russian Jewish grandmother, who first brought him here on holiday. The frail, eight-year-old was mesmerised by the sounds and colours of Crawford Market, which imprinted themselves in his mind as indelibly as the larger-than-life lady with her rings as big as cathedral domes.

    A decade ago, we had talked of all this in his flat in the shadow of the Sacre Coeur, when still hadn’t been scarred forever by the loss of his Moroccan lover. Olaf had given him a red parakeet for Christmas, just before the younger man fell seriously ill, and they had named it ‘Pondi-Cherry’. Olaf reveres the Mother of the Aurobindo ashram.

    This time he doesn’t draw upon his repertoire of Cartier stories, but presents us with verbal baubles from his recent travels, especially in the South. He despairs of being in an expensive hotel with no ‘hroom serveece’, of not seeing any elephants in ‘Pehreeyar’, of having paid more for ‘cah-da-mom’ in the Spice Village than in Fourchon, the French gourmet store.

    Then, as Chef Hemant Oberoi’s last piece of culinary extravagance appears on the embroidered organza table-cloth, we dissolve in laughter over his description of Japanese tourists confronting the thali at a heritage resort in Chidambaram, totally flummoxed by the profusion of dishes and the utter absence of eating implements.

    Mythologies come in many avatars.

  3. Oh these are lovely!

  4. These are lovely.

  5. really beautiful pictures and the colours are wonderful

  6. Very well said Purnima…it is really like a fantasy 🙂

  7. Hello Maddie! How have you been?! Yes, elephants, inspite of their size, are quite cute 😀

  8. 🙂 glad you liked them Corine!

    Hello Purple! Thanks 🙂

  9. Thanks Olaf! I am honored to showcase your paintings and have you on my blog! 🙂

  10. You are welcome Selya! :-)…do visit his site and online gallery for a larger view of the paintings

  11. Thanks Patricia! It was amazing going through Olaf’s work and history – I am so glad he chose India as his inspiration

  12. I love the cute blue and pink elephants .. It is like a child’s fantasy world ..

  13. these remind me of gorgeous
    images done in vivid tilework for
    some reason and I particularly
    love the elephants:)

    i heart elephants:)

  14. Great posting as always!!

  15. the colors are fantastics, the design divine. i’m in love.

  16. Thanck you so much for this beautifull page in your blog.

    Sincerely thanks


  17. soo beautiful watercolors! thank you to share! wish his pictures were bigger so we could see more details)

  18. Very interesting story about Mr Van Cleef and wonderful images!

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