The new Dr. Martens x National Gallery shoes are more subversive than ever!

Art regularly features on Dr. Martens shoes. After Bosch, Turner, Monet or Van Gogh, it is now Harmen Steenwyck’s turn to be honored with a rather subversive work. The iconic 1460 boots, the 1461 shoes, as well as a leather backpack have been given a surprising makeover, as part of a partnership between the English brand and the National Gallery in London.

Dr. Martens and the National Gallery, a vibrant partnership

Dr. Martens likes to reiterate: the brand supports “artists who swim against the tide”. In recent years, it has thus formed partnerships with prestigious institutions such as the Tate and the National Gallery to create products inspired by the works of these museums.

Since 2022, Vincent Van Gogh’s Sunflowers have thus appeared on the 1460 boots, while Claude Monet’s Water Lilies have covered the 1461 shoes. Once again, the two most iconic pieces from Dr. Martens serve as a backdrop to the partnership with the National Gallery, which is celebrating its bicentenary in 2024.

The British brand, however, seems to have finished its impressionistic phase, since it’s a painting by Harmen Steenwyck that is at the heart of this new collaboration.

The Allegory of the vanities of human life on shoes (and a bag)

Dutch painter of the golden century (the 17th to be exact), Harmen Steenwyck is also considered a “key practitioner of the Dutch vanitas style”. This genre, popular during the baroque period (from roughly 1600 to 1750) showcases “the fragility of human life and the vanity of what a human being holds onto during it”. At first glance, it’s not very cheerful, even though Vanitas still lifes often contain hidden details and subtler symbolic images.

Dating from the 1640s, The Allegory of the Vanities of Human Life is undoubtedly the most famous painting by Harmen Steenwyck. And one of those best representing the vanitas style. On this macabre canvas, a ray of sunlight cuts through the darkness, highlighting the empty eye sockets and the widely spaced teeth of a human skull. A “subtle” way for the artist to say that we are facing death, while the extinguished lamp and the ticking watch remind us that our time will also come…

For Dr. Martens, the choice of this work is not insignificant and one can see it as a way to encourage living in the present moment. More pragmatically, Harmen Steenwyck’s still life is applied to three well-known silhouettes of the British brand: the 1460 boot, the 1461 shoe, and the leather backpack.

The details have not been neglected as we find the usual characteristics of Dr. Martens (yellow stitching, original soles…) subtly modified and complemented by shades of black and gold elements.

This new Dr. Martens x National Gallery collection is available from April 4, 2024 on Dr. Martens x The National Gallery (

Collection Dr. Martens x National Gallery 2024

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