WILLEM VAN DEN BERG (The Hague 1886 – Leiden 1970)
An Andean Condor
signed WILLEM VAN DEN BERG. in the lower left center
oil on board
42 x 26 inches (106.8x 66.5 cm.)
Purchased from the artist by
Prof. Dr. Ir. Dirk Frederik Slothouwer (1884-1946), Delft
Private Collection, Utrecht, until 2015
Arnhem, Vereeniging Artibus Sacrum
Andean condors are among the largest birds in the world able to fly, with an average wingspan of ten feet. Typically, around four feet in height, they can weigh up to thirty-three pounds, and are carnivores. They are mostly black, with males marked by a ruff of white feathers around the neck, as depicted in this work. The wings also usually have patches of white. The head is nearly featherless, and red in color, which is apt to flush when the bird is in a heightened emotional state. Covering part of the head and pointed beak is a distinctive caruncle. They dwell in the mountainous regions of South America, with a life span that can exceed seventy-five years.
In a work of monumental proportions, Van den Berg has portrayed a male raptor as fiercely majestic, in a state of repose, atop a mountain. Its small head and beady eye point to a creature who acts on instinct as opposed to intellect, and whose powerful body is an unstoppable force of nature. Van den Berg had a penchant for painting predatory birds. A number of these works were executed in the 1930s, as probably was this one, and is possibly a reflection upon the turmoil of the times. A pastel study for this work is viewable on the RKD Netherlands Institute for Art History website pages on Willem van den Berg, no. 186322.
The original purchaser of the work was Dr. Ir. Dirk Frederik Slothouwer, a renowned architect and professor. He was awarded the Prix de Rome for architecture in 1909, and oversaw the restoration of the Dom in Delft from 1919-1939. He taught at the Technische Hogeschool, Delft, and authored the book De paleizen van Frederik Hendrik.
Willem van den Berg painted still lifes, animals, genre, landscapes, and portraits, as well as peasants, farmers, and particularly Scheveningen and Volendam fisherfolk. He first trained with his father Andries van den Berg, a painter, print-maker, and teacher at the Academy in The Hague. He later enrolled at the Academie voor Beeldende Kunst, The Hague, and was a student of Carel Frederick Louis Wild, as well as Willem Adriaan van Konijnenburg. Van den Berg took study trips to Belgium, Italy, England, and worked with the Barbizon artists in France. Afterwards he became an instructor in the Eerste Nederlandse Vrije Studio, The Hague. In 1926 he exhibited a painting at the Jeu de Paume, Paris. In 1938 he moved to Amsterdam. From 1939 until 1953, he was the Director as well as an instructor at the National Academy of Fine Arts, Amsterdam. He proved to be a popular teacher, and his students included Jan Batermann, Joop Broek, Jacobus Johannes Brouwers, Jan Engelberts, Lydia Hoeffelman, Bob Hoope, and Kurt Löf, among many others. In 1959 he received second prize at the International Art Exhibition, Edinburgh. He was a member of Arti et Amicitiae, Amsterdam; the Pulchri Studio, The Hague; and one of the Gooische artists who painted in Laren. He also worked as a graphic artist executing linocuts and lithographs. His works can be found in the museums of Amsterdam, Assen, Budapest, Deurne, Enkhuizen, The Hague, Laren, Rotterdam, Trieste and Utrecht.
The chief influences on his work were the paintings of Willem Adriaan van Konijnenburg, Johann Joseph Aarts, and the old masters, especially Pieter Brueghel the Elder. As a result of his time among the Barbizon painters, a connection to Jean François Millet is also evident. Van den Berg has been characterized as a naïve artist, and was included in such shows as Meesters der Europese Naieven at the Centraal Museum, Utrecht in 1970. Such terminology seems somewhat inadequate when describing the particular magic Van den Berg created, as he always remained unaffected by contemporary trends, continually seeking his own way, perpetually defying definition.
We are very grateful to Paula Moore for her assistance in the writing of this entry.
“Andean Condor, Vulture gryphus” on National Geographic website, animals.nationalgeographic.com; and “Andean Condor, Vultur, gryphus” on www.birdtaxidermy.co.uk.
 “Willem van den Berg, De Gier” on rkd.nl (RKD Explore) website.
 “Dirk Frederik Slothouwer” on rkd.nl (RKD Explore) website.
 Biographical information taken from Hans Vollmer, Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Künstler des XX. Jahrhunderts, volume A-D, Veb. E. A. Seemann Verlag, Leipzig, 1953, p. 177; Joachim Busse, Internationales Handbuch Aller Maler und Bildhauer des 19. Jahrhunderts, Verlag Busse Kunst Dokumentation GMBH, Weisbaden, 1977, p. 94; K.G. Saur, Allgemeines Künstlerlexikon Bio-Bibliographischen Index A-Z, München, 1999-2000, p. 318; and Dirck Brinkkemper, Peter Kersloot, & Kees Sier, “Willem Hendrik van den Berg” in Volendam Schildersdorp 1880 – 1940, Waanders Uitgevers, Zwolle, 2006, p. 56.
 K.G. Saur, op. cit., p. 318.
 Ellwood Hendrick “Netherlanders at the Arts,” in The Art World, A Monthly For the Public Devoted to the Higher Ideals, volume 3, The Kalon Publishing Company, Inc., New York, 1917, p. 234.
 Dirk Brinkkemper, op. cit., p. 56.