Old Master Paintings, Drawings, and British Portraits


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

Twee Volendammers (Two Volendammers)

signed Wilm Wouters and dated 22 in the upper left

charcoal on paper mounted on cardboard

25½ x 19 inches          (64.7 x 48.7 cm.)


Private Collection, Amsterdam, until 2014


Wilm Wouters executed this sketch for the oil painting of the same title, Twee Volendammers, in the Zuiderzeemuseum in Enkhuizen, The Netherlands (see Fig. 14a).[1] Before Wouters became an artist he was a sailor and then a diamond cutter. The obvious empathy incorporated into the portrayal of this drawing of the Twee Volendammers, multifaceted features evokes these earlier experiences. Wouters 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 Nicolaes van der Waay; but it would be his 1918 move from Amsterdam to Volendam that would prove transformative.[2]

In all likelihood, Wouters, like so many of his colleagues, arrived in Volendam in search of the “unspoiled” villages of the Zuiderzee. 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).[3] 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 causing 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 not surprisingly 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 also 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.[4]

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, 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 published by the Zuiderzee Museum in 2009.[5] 

Outsiders idealized the people of Volendam who were viewed as pious, honest, healthy and happy. Their needs were felt to be meager and were seen as removed from such social ills as alcoholism. Their colorful costumes and tiny wooden houses crammed with objects appealed to the imagination of artists and collectors alike.[6] Wouters, who lived among them, captured their souls as opposed to only their reflections in his work. In Twee Volendammers the portrayed stoicism is heightened by the exotic costuming of the sitters, which was the traditional garb of the village. The men all wore tight-fitting tunics in a variety of shades that included red, black, pink, green, blue and orange, with black scarves tucked around their necks, over wide heavy trousers. Their distinctive fur caps are called karpoets.[7] The immediacy of the sketch is heightened by the use of charcoal which imbues its subjects with a stark monumentality. The eternal struggle of man against the sea is stamped across the faces of these seamen. Their visages further reflect the daily tension that enveloped the entire village, continually waiting and watching for the return of its fisherman, as a successful outcome was never assured and the village’s survival hung in the balance.[8] In 1922, rooted to the past along with a refusal to don modern dress, these sitters are emblematic of a period that has almost vanished yet represent fundamental truths that should never be forgotten.

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 Volendam Museum and a still-life painting in the Gemeentemuseum, The Hague.[9]



[1] For a full-page color reproduction of the oil painting Twee Volendammers, see Brian Dudley Barrett, Volendam Artists Village: The Heritage of Hotel Spaander, uitgeverij d’jonge Hond, Zuiderzeemuseum, 2009, p. 97.

[2] Dirk Brinkkemper, Peter Kersloot and Kees Sier, Volendam Schildersdorp 1880–1940, Waanders Uitgevers, Zwolle, 2006, p. 126.

[3] Ivo Blom, op. cit., pp. 247-248, 254; and Annette Stott, Holland Mania, The Overlook Press, Woodstock, New York, 1998, pp. 44-45.

[4] Ivo Blom, op. cit., pp. 247, 254.

[5] Brian Dudley Barrett, op. cit., pp. 132, 144, 150, 154.

[6] Ibid, p. 248.

[7] Ibid, p. 62.

[8] Ibid, p. 44.

[9] 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, op. cit., p. 26.

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