Developments in the 19th Century



 




Art Styles in 19th century - Art Map


 




SYMBOLISM

in

Belgium and the Netherlands





(Between Romanticism and Expressionism)



 



 


 

 


C o n t e n t s:
 
The Great Upheaval
France
Great Britain and the United States
Belgium and the Netherlands
German - speaking Countries and Scandinavia
The Slav Countries
The Mediterranean Countries
Post-Symbolism
 


 

 

collections:
Felicien Rops
Fernand Khnopff
Henry De Groux
Xavier Mellery
Emile Fabry
Jean Delville
Georges Minne
Degouve de Nuncques
Leon Frederic
Leon Spilliaert
Constant Montald
Jan Toorop
Johan Thorn-Prikker
Richard Roland Holst
 
 





Belgium and the Netherlands

 


 

 


























 
       
      Jan Toorop

(see collection)
 
     
Jan Toorop
Turningt in on Oneself
       
Like Belgium, the Holland of the last decades of the 1800s was a prosperous country and a point of intersection for both commerce and
culture. Unlike Belgium, Holland was and remains a Protestant country. This seems to have been the decisive factor that made Belgium rich in Symbolist art and Holland comparatively poor.
The form of realist art favoured in the Netherlands and exemplified at the turn of the century by the School of the Hague was the product of an implicit theology, a philosophy of life and of art which lies outside the present subject. Van Gogh, now probably the most famous painter of this period, was initially a practitioner (albeit a very independent one) of the style then prevailing in Holland; to find a new and different approach, he had to go to France. Should one conclude that the pragmatic outlook of a Protestant society had lost touch with the symbolic register active in Catholic countries - as of course throughout Asia, Africa and South America? A century of anthropological studies has clearly identified the symbolic structure of human societies and of our representations of the world. This structure is far from arbitrary; it obeys a logic similar to the logic of dreams. And scientific positivism, the dominant ideology of the turn of the century, could not perceive the function or logic of this register. This is what incited a "public weary of Positivism" (as Huysmans put it), to turn to "charlatans" and "windbags". It also led certain artists to put their art at the service of the Ideal - a fallacy similar to that of placing one's art at the service of the People.

The two significant Symbolist figures of the Netherlands are Jan Toorop (1858-1928) and Johan Thorn Prikker (1868-1932). Toorop discovered Symbolism while staying in Belgium; Thorn Prikker was in turn influenced by Toorop and by his admiration for
Maurice Denis.
Toorop is a painter of striking formal eccentricity. A partial explanation lies in his origin and childhood: he was half-Javanese and spent his childhood in Java. The figures encountered in his paintings are those of the Javanese shadow theater, with their long, thin arms. From our own perspective, the work of both Toorop and Thorn Prikker appears schematic and overliteral. Toorop himself offers a perfectly banal commentary on his painting The Three Fiancees (1893): "The central fiancée evokes an inward, superior and beautiful desire... an ideal suffering... The fiancée on the left symbolizes spiritual suffering. She is the mystic fiancée, her eyes wide with fear...." The bride on the right has "a materialistic and profane expression..." and stands for the sensual world.

 
Jan Toorop

(see collection)
 
 

Jan Toorop
The Young Generation

Jan Toorop
The Three Fiancees
 


Thorn Prikker
took Toorop's formalism a step further; the garland worn by The Bride echoes Christ's crown of thorns. The work is of considerable formal interest and suggests that the schematic forms favoured by both artists were stages in the process of abstraction.
It is significant that Toorop transformed his style in painting a testament of love for his infant daughter. The Young Generation shows the child seated in her high chair, turning her back on the past and lifting her arms to the luminous and mysterious world that opens before her.

 

 
Johan Thorn Prikker

(b The Hague, 6 June 1868; d Cologne, 5 March 1932).

Dutch painter, printmaker, mosaicist and stained-glass artist. He attended the Koninklijke Academie van Beeldende Kunsten in The Hague (1881–8). During this period he painted mainly landscapes in the style of The Hague school. Until c. 1896 he produced Symbolist works, in which the emphatic line flow and the subtle colour shading are especially noticeable, for example The Bride (1893; Otterlo, Kröller-Muller). From 1892 until 1897 he corresponded with Henri Borel, partly about his Symbolist work, often drawing in the letters. During this time he came into close contact with Belgian artists, in particular with Henry Van de Velde through whom he was able to exhibit with Les XX in Brussels. In summer he regularly stayed in Visé, where he produced pastel drawings in a rhythmic pointillism, a style with which he could achieve a form of abstraction.
 

 



Johan Thorn Prikker
The Bride
1893



Johan Thorn Prikker
Madonna in a Tulip Field

1892

 



Johan Thorn Prikker
Deposition from the Cross
1892

 

 


Johan Thorn Prikker
Revue Bimestrielle

 
 

 

 
Richard Roland Holst

(b Amsterdam, 4 Dec 1868; d Bloemendaal, 31 Dec 1938).
Dutch painter, printmaker, illustrator, writer and stained-glass artist. He trained at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam (1886–90), under the directorship of August Allebé. Having initially painted and drawn Impressionistic landscapes, he started working in the ’t Gooi region in 1892, where, influenced by Vincent van Gogh and Jan Toorop, he made a number of Symbolist drawings and lithographs. In 1896 he married the Dutch writer Henriette van der Schalk. They both devoted themselves to the recently founded Sociaal Democratische Arbeiders Partij. In the years up to c. 1900 Holst produced among other things a series of lithographs of political cartoons with socialist content, as well as serene landscapes and paintings of girls from the village of Huizen. His allegorical murals (1902; in situ), on topics such as ‘Industry’ or ‘Commerce’, in the new Koopmansbeurs in Amsterdam by H. P. Berlage (1876–1903), marked an important point in his career as his first opportunity to construct a monumental piece of work. Partly inspired by the murals in the town hall at ’s Hertogenbosch by Antoon Derkinderen, he developed a tight, stylized type of design, which he believed to be ideal for visually representing idealistic and exalted thoughts. In his murals (1903–6) in the headquarters of the Algemeene Nederlandsche Diamantbewerkers Bond (ANDB) he developed these principles into a severe system based on geometric foundations, which can be found in all his later work. This includes more murals in the ANDB’s headquarters (1912 and 1936–7), a number of stained-glass windows, for example in the Amsterdam Lyceum (1920–27), in the post offices of Haarlem (1923) and Utrecht (1931) and in the cathedral in Utrecht (1926 and 1934–6), and decorated marble panels in the Supreme Court in The Hague (1937–8; destr.). In addition, throughout his career he designed sober, geometric exhibition and theatre posters, book jackets, magazine covers and programmes, mostly as lithographs. He also designed books.

 

 


Richard Nicolaus Roland Holst
Anangke (Necessity)
1892
 
   


Richard Nicolaus Roland Holst
Two Women at Work
 
   


Richard Nicolaus Roland Holst
Helga's Entry
1893
 
 

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