LAWRENCE STEIGRAD FINE ARTS

Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits

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WILHELMUS (WILM) HENDRIKUS MARIE WOUTERS (The Hague 1887 – Amsterdam 1957)

Mother and Child by Volendam Harbor

signed Wilm Wouters in the lower right

oil on canvas

26 ½ x 11 5/8 inches          (68 x 30 cm.)


PROVENANCE

By descent in the family of the artist until 2008, and from whom acquired by

Lieveland Collection, De Rijp, The Netherlands, 2008-2015

 

EXHIBITED

Enkhuizen, Zuiderzeemuseum, Volendam Kunstenaarsdorp het Erfgoed van Hotel Spaander (Volendam Artists Village, The Heritage of Hotel Spaander) November 22, 2009 - May 2, 2010

Domburg, Marie Tak von Poortvliet Museum, ‘Artist Kom Binne’, Volendam Kunstenaarsdorp in Domburg, June 9 - November 10, 2013

Volendam, Volendams Museum, Wilm Wouters Schildert Volendam, March 15 - November 8, 2015

 

Before an impressionistically rendered sea, sky, and ground, a mother of monumental stature, stands holding her infant at the edge of Volendam harbor, framed by two boats with magenta sails. The color is emblematic for Volendam as it was dubbed “The Magenta Village” by a number of visiting artists. This color was visible throughout Volendam, in the clothing of the villagers, on the sails of the fishing boats, and on the brick work, and paint of their houses.[1] The woman is dressed in the traditional garb of the village. She wears a black jacket, enlivened by a square yoke or embroidered “kraplap,” over a black and white striped skirt, topped by a blue apron, with a lighter band across the waist. One is reminded of the sea’s dominance upon the lives of these villagers by the torrent of blue brush strokes that comprise her apron. Women typically wore short sleeves, as sun-burnt arms were considered particularly beautiful.[2] She sports a black undercap, worn everyday as opposed to the more ornate high lace cap called the Volendam “Hul”. Black leather shoes are paired with grey stockings. Around her neck are three strands of red coral with a gold clasp worn in front. Coral was traditionally believed to ward off disease and evil spirits.[3] The most pronounced feature of her costume is its silhouette, humorously explained by Henry van Dyke, Minister to the Netherlands from 1913 - 1917, in a 1918 speech given to The Holland Society at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. “You know the Dutch peasant women wear just as many petticoats as they can pay for and put on, anywhere from the number of eight or ten or even twelve, so that when they are fully dressed they look like a beer barrel on skids”.[4] The child’s clothing resembles that of the mother, again customary in the village.

Mother and Child by Volendam Harbor directly relates to Wouters’ largest composition The Life Cycle of a Volendam Fisherman (De Levenscyclus van een Volendammer Visser), purchased in 2015, by the Volendams Museum[5], as they reappear in similar poses as the wife and child of the fisherman. Resolute in the face of change, the village clung to its traditions, and both pieces can be viewed as a homage to the place in which the painter lived and worked.[6] For Wouters, this mother and child was the essence of Volendam, embodying all that was worth saving and remembering.

Before Wouters became an artist, he was a sailor and then a diamond cutter. He began his artistic training in 1908 with Albert Hahn. From 1909 to 1914, he was enrolled at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam, and was a student of Carl Lodewijk Dak, Antonius Johannes Derkinderen, and Nicolaas van der Waay; but it would be his 1918 move from Amsterdam to Volendam, that would prove transformative.[7] In all likelihood, Wouters, like so many of his colleagues, arrived in Volendam in search of the “unspoiled” villages of the Netherlands. From the 1880s onwards, artists from all over the world had become enamored of all things Dutch, and arrived in droves to search for what they considered the “true” Holland. Volendam, eleven miles north of Amsterdam, in the 1880s was a remote fishing village accessible only by canalboat or carriage. Such isolation had left Volendam largely untouched by the modernization and industrialization prevalent in such Dutch cities as Rotterdam and Amsterdam or other foreign capitals, and it was exactly this feature that proved so attractive.  Noting a lack of hotel accommodations, a local entrepreneur by the name of Leendart Spaander spotted an opportunity and opened his house to foreign artists. By 1881 he had purchased a bar in Volendam and converted it into the Hotel Spaander (which is still in existence today).[8] In 1895, cleverly and with much forethought, Spaander had two of his daughters don the traditional dress of Volendam, and accompany him to the opening of an exhibition for the Dutch artist Nico Jungman in London, which caused a sensation. Spaander followed this up by having postcards printed featuring Volendam and his hotel, and sent them to all foreign art academies. He also ran ads for the hotel with the Holland-America shipping line. At the hotel, he installed rooms featuring typical Volendam interiors, and then rented them to artists. For an extra fee he supplied models. Spaander had seven daughters who often posed for artists, and unsurprisingly three eventually married painters, including his youngest Conny who married Wouters in 1919. Spaander further extended his operation by buying the land behind his hotel and building studios for artists who wanted to prolong their stay in Volendam. As a result of such accommodations, an international artist colony formed. Spaander was able to amass a large art collection as unpaid accounts were occasionally settled in exchange for paintings. Volendam, viewed as quaint, colorful and exotic, teemed with artists, and along with Spaander’s ever-growing collection, functioned as a draw for the hotel and attracted tourists from everywhere. Such millionaires as Andrew Carnegie, William Randolph Hearst, Anna Pavlova, Harold Lloyd, Clark Gable, and Walt Disney, as well as members of the Dutch and German royal families, visited.[9]

Conny and Wouters, along with her sisters Pauline and Trinette, and their husbands, the German painter Georg Hering and French artist Augustine Haricotte respectively, held a central place within the artists’ colony of Volendam. They acted as role models for the community, and were particularly helpful in assisting new arrivals, and organizing ateliers. Conny and Wouters’ first son, also named Wilm, was born in 1919. Leendart Spaander lived to be 99 years old (1855-1955), and through the years his collection grew substantially, with Wouters contributing more than sixty works. Because of the nature of its formation, the Spaander Collection is viewed as a guideline to the artistic heritage of Volendam, the importance of which was documented in Volendam Artists Village, The Heritage of Hotel Spaander, in which this painting was illustrated, published by the Zuiderzeemuseum in 2009.[10] 

Wouters lived in Volendam until 1925, and then moved to Amsterdam. Besides being an excellent draftsman and painter, he worked in pastels and watercolor, and executed etchings, lithographs and woodcuts. His subject matter included landscapes, cityscapes, florals, and genre, but foremost portraiture. He was a member of Arti et Amicitae, the St. Luke Society, and Mija Rembrandt. Besides works in the Spaander Collection and the Zuiderzeemuseum, there is a charcoal drawing, De Kaartlegger (Reading the Cards) in the Volendams Museum, and a still-life painting in the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague.[11]

 

 

[1] Brian Dudley Barrett & André Groeneveld, Volendam Kunstenaarsdorp het Erfgoed van Hotel Spaander (Volendam Artists Village, The Heritage of Hotel Spaander) Zuiderzeemuseum, Enkhuizen, 2009, p. 12.

[2] A.D.M. Jr., “A Traveler’s Notes of a Trip to the Land of Dykes”, in New Amsterdam Gazette, volume 3, no. 1, New York, August 31, 1883, p. 5; and Beatrix Jungman, Holland, Adam and Charles Black, London, 1904, p. 3.

[3] Katlijne Van der Stighelen, “Peter Paul Rubens” in Pride and Joy, Children’s Portraits in the Netherlands 1500-1700, exhibition catalog, Frans Halsmuseum, Haarlem, October 7 - December 31, 2000, p. 36.

[4] “Address by Lieutenant – Commander Henry van Dyke, Chaplain, U.S.N.R.F.” in Year Book of The Holland Society of New York 1918, The Holland Society of New York, p. 97.

[5] “Volendams Museum verheugd over aankoop grootse schilderij Wilm Wouters”, June 18, 2015, on groote-waterland.nl website. The painting originally measured 1.50 x 3.60 meters.

[6] Piet Koning, Wilm Wouters, In oprdracht van de Stichting Artist Kom Binne, 2015, p. 94.

[7] Dirk Brinkkemper, Peter Kersloot, Kees Sier, op. cit., p. 126.

[8] Ivo Blom, “Of Artists and Tourists: ‘Locating’ Holland in Two Early German Films” in A Second Life: German Cinema’s First Decades, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 1996, pp. 247-248, 254; and Annette Stott, Holland Mania, The Overlook Press, Woodstock, New York, 1998, pp. 44-45.

[9] Ivo Blom, op. cit., pp. 247, 254.

[10] Brian Dudley Barrett & André Groeneveld, op. cit., pp. 132, 144, 150, 154.

[11] Biographical information taken from Hans Vollmer, “Wilm (Wilhelmus) Wouters in Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Künstler des XX. Jahrhunderts, volume V-Z, Veb. E.A. Seemann Verlag, Leipzig, 1953, p. 170; Pieter A. Scheen, “Wilhelmus Hendrikus Marie (Wilm) Wouters” in Lexicon Nederlandse Beeldende Kunstenaars 1750–1950, volume 2, ‘s-Gravenhage, 1969-1970, pp. 626-627; and Dirk Brinkkemper, Peter Kersloot, Kees Sier, op. cit., p. 26.

Lawrence Steigrad Fine Arts

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