Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits


WILLY SLUITER (Amersfoort 1873 – The Hague 1949)

Katwijkse Visvrouw (Fishwife of Katwijk)

signed Willy Sluiter in the upper right

watercolor, gouache and pencil on paper

7 ¾ x 7 ½ inches          (19.7 x 19 cm.)


Private Collection, Chicago


Jan Willem Sluiter (known as Willy) began his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts, Rotterdam from 1896 – 1894, followed by a stint at the Academy in The Hague. He produced paintings, watercolors, and drawings primarily featuring genre and portraits as well as political cartoons, caricatures and lithographs. Above all else it was the life of the fishing communities especially in Katwijk and Volendam that captured his heart and imagination. He lived and worked in Zwijndrecht, Dordrecht, and Rotterdam until 1894, Scheveningen 1894 – 1897, Katwijk 1898 – 1909, Volendam 1908, 1911, 1918, 1919 – 20, 1931, Laren 1909 – 1916, and finally in The Hague.[1] Although Sluiter played a key role in the artist colonies of Katwijk, Laren and Volendam, his transience reflects the changing role of the artist in society. No longer could careers be dependent on private patronage and reputations formed at important exhibitions. With the rise of popular illustrated magazines Sluiter’s commercial work by 1910 came to exceed his painting sales. He worked for a wide variety of magazines from all over Holland which included De Nieuwe Groene, De Kamoioen, De Criticus, Het Hamertje and the satirical journal De Ware Jacob. Posters were also produced for such diverse objects as Splendo Tobaksartikel, Naval Peppermint, and Bakker Branden (tires).[2] In Sluiter’s case this work appears to have only increased his popularity, as he became a celebrated portrait painter among the elite (for example see his portrait of Queen Juliana, Paleis Het Loo National Museum, Apeldoorn) as well as the recipient of numerous awards. He exhibited in The Hague, Ghent, Amsterdam and Rotterdam between 1896 – 1905, and was a member of Arti et Amicitae, Amsterdam; Pulchri Studios, The Hague; and Pictura in Dordrecht. His public legacy can be found in the museums of Apeldoorn, Amsterdam, Dordrecht, Enkhuizen, Haarlem, The Hague, Heino, Katwijk, Laren, Leiden, Nijmegen, Otterlo, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Volendam and Zwijndrecht.[3]

The Katwijkse Visvrouw stems from Sluiter’s formative years spent in Katwijk between 1898 – 1909 and is the embodiment of his true passion. The heyday of Katwijk as an artistic center fell between 1880 – 1910, a period during which at least 517 artists stayed in the village. Katwijk was transformed from a small fishing village to a busy seaside resort that catered to an ever-growing tourist industry, a direct result of the popularity of the imagery created by the same group of artists.[4]  Sluiter was a key figure on the scene and directly responsible for the founding of Katwijk’s Art Society in April, 1908. When Arthur Edwin Bye described Sluiter’s Katwijk subjects in International Studio, the review captured their essence. “Willy Sluiter likes to paint scenes in Katwyk. His subject matter is familiar as depicted many times in the nineteenth century, but here the same life is seen by a modern eye – a bit more rugged, unsoftened by sentiment. His bold compositions have a trace of decorative arrangement about them, which is increased by the strength and purity of his coloring.”[5] Contemporary art critics all agreed that his portraits of Katwijk fishermen and women were by far his best work (“Zijn portretten van Katwijksche visschens en visschersvrouwen zijn verreweg het beste werk”).[6] The powerful rendering of our composition along with three closely related examples of Katwijksche visschersvrouwen in the municipal and museum collection of Katwijk attests to the truth of this statement. Additionally in the untoward realism of Willy Sluiter’s unflinching portrayal of this sitter’s weather beaten face the preconceived notion of the picturesque life of the fisherfolk of the North Sea is unmasked.



[1] Biographical information taken from Pieter A. Scheen, “Jan Willem Sluiter” in Lexicon Nederlandse Beeldende Kunstenaars 1750 – 1880, Uitgeverij Pieter A. Scheen BV, ‘s Gravenhage, 1981, p. 481.

[2] Brian Dudley Barrett, Volendam Kunstenaarsdorp het Erfgoed van Hotel Spaander, uitgeverij d’jonge Hond, Zuiderzeemuseum, 2009, p. 90.

[3] Pieter A. Scheen, op. cit., p. 481.

[4] Annette Stott, Holland Mania, The Overlook Press, Woodstock, 1998, p. 62, and Nina Lübbren, Rural Artists’ Colonies in Europe 1870 – 1910, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 2001, p. 170.

[5] Arthur Edwin Bye, “Dutch Painters of Today” in International Studio, volume 74, August – December, 1921 and January, 1922, p. LXVI.

[6] Arend-Jan Sleijster, Willy Sluiter en de Kunstvereeniging ‘Katwijk’, 1908 – 1910, Stichting Katwijks Museum, Katwijk, 2008, pp. 114 – 115. 

Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts

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