WILLEM VAN DEN BERG (The Hague 1886 – Leiden 1970)
Moses Leading the Israelites Out of the Wilderness
signed and dated in the lower center WILLEM VAN DEN BERG 1951
ink on paper
19 ¼ x 18 ½ inches (49.4 x 45.8 cm.)
Private Collection, Chicago until 2012
Willem van den Berg painted still lifes, animals, genre, landscapes and portraits but was best known for his renderings of peasants, farmers and particularly Scheveningen and Volendam fisherfolk. He first trained with his father Andries van den Berg a renowned painter, print-maker and teacher at the Academy in The Hague. He later enrolled at the Academie voor Beeldende Kunst in The Hague and was a student of Carel Frederick Louis Wild and Willem Adriaan van Konijnenburg. Van den Berg also took study trips to Belgium, worked with the Barbizon artists in France, Italy and England. Afterwards he became an instructor in the Eerste Nederlandse Vrije Studio in 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 of the National Academy of Fine Arts in Amsterdam. In 1959 he received second prize at the International Art Exhibition in Edinburgh. He was a member of the “Arti et Amicitiae” Association in Amsterdam, the Pulchri Studio in 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, Budapest, Enkhuizen, The Hague, Laren, Rotterdam and Trieste.
The chief influences on his work were the paintings of Willem Adriaan van Konijnenburg, Johann Joseph Aarts and the old masters, particularly Pieter Brueghel the Elder. As a result of his work 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 this artist created as he always remained unaffected by contemporary trends, continually seeking his own way perpetually defying definition.
After moving to Amsterdam Van den Berg regularly visited Volendam to sketch. The artist felt a strong empathy for the village and its community. Sketches done on these trips formed the basis for the powerfully emotive works produced in his studio. The subject of Moses and the Israelites engaged the artist for almost two decades. The imagery of this 1951 drawing casts the populace of Volendam in the guise of the fleeing Israelites accompanied by their livestock. Moses at the forefront pushes them onwards to the Promised Land. By altering the flock’s identity their ultimate destination also changes. To Van den Berg Volendam was the promised land of milk and honey as within its confines he felt man and nature became one. To the artist the perfect life was exemplified by their simple existence which served as a major inspiration throughout most of his career.
 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; and 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.
 Ibid, p. 56.
 Ibid, p. 56.