Lot 137
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Old Masters, Nineteenth Century & Early Modern Art | 16 November 2022
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Jan Sluijters (1881-1957)

'Laantje' / A colourful forest lane

signed and dated 'Jan. Sluijters 10' (upper left)

oil on canvas, 47x40 cm

Literature:
-Jacqueline de Raad, Digital catalogue raisonné, ‘Oeuvrecatalogus van de schilder Jan Sluijters’, RKD Studies 1998, where erroneously dated 1909.

Provenance:
-With Kunsthandel G.J. Nieuwenhuizen Segaar, The Hague.

After receiving a thorough and classical art education, Jan Sluijters manages to win the prestigious Prix de Rome in 1904. That same year he travels by means of his just received Prix-allowance through Italy and Spain, yet without really getting artistically inspired: it was all the same boring past, while Sluijters longs for the more exciting present. It is only in Paris that he finally finds the answer to his artistic aspirations. Here he becomes captivated by the Post-Impressionists and Fauvists and gets greatly inspired by the work of various modern painters, among whom fellow Dutchman Kees van Dongen. The modern Parisian nightlife, the bright electric and coloured light, the swirling dancers on the café floor must have been mesmerizing for Sluijters. He wants to capture it all in his paintings and at the same time give his spectators the idea of not only watching the scene, but of being part of it as well. With loose brush strokes and bright colours, Sluijters paints lively and exciting café scenes, such as Café Olympia and Bal Tabarin.

However, the conservative Prix de Rome jury is not amused and accuses Sluijters of “celebrating the false ingenuity of the latest French trend” and of ‘‘trying too desperately with new colour schemes in his search for raw passion”. With the denouncement of his work comes the announcement that his allowance will be cut short. Back in Amsterdam in 1906, Sluijters receives some negative reviews, being considered to be too avant-garde. For Sluijters the criticism is the very proof that his choice to embrace modernism and to experiment with new styles is the right one. In a letter to a friend he writes “Alas […] a couple more of these refusals and I will become a famous man.” By then he already knows that negative attention is also publicity, what-so-ever. Despite the criticism Sluijters continues to exhibit his work along with that of his contemporaries, like Piet Mondriaan and Leo Gestel, and by doing so contributes greatly to a shift in the rather traditional artistic climate in the Netherlands.

For many thinkers and artists, the beginning of the twentieth century also heralded the beginning of a search for new spiritual meaning and for some this meant that real life, as depicted in all its materialistic glory, was too decadent and too superficial. Spiritual depth, according to them, was not to be found in immoral city life, but should be sought after and could only be found in nature and nature alone. Always open to new ideas and looking for new subject matter, Sluijters would often trade Amsterdam for rural Renkum in Gelderland or Heeze in Brabant. For months on end he would paint non-stop in the woods where he, by his own account, found his way back to nature. The ruling thought of the day was that, for putting ‘soul’ into one’s work, the artist should use his senses first and then translate them onto canvas. Colour was used to express the felt sensations, not to depict reality.

With all the new techniques and ideas picked up in Paris, intertwined with his new philosophical approach of depicting his surroundings in a more spiritual way, we see Sluijters produce numerous vibrant works in the years 1907-1908. They are beaming and bursting of colourful dots and strokes of bright, unmixed colours, always with the emphasis on the representation of light. However, the peak of this phase is reached in 1910, when Sluijters lives in Laren. Not the depiction of a realistic world is his main concern, but the use of form and colour to express the sensory perception of the world.

Or in Sluijters own words: “Als ik bijvoorbeeld de zon zou willen schilderen op het landschap, zou ik dit landschap eerst wel mijn rug willen toekeren, om daarna, wanneer ik de sensatie, welke het glanzen der zon op het landschap in mij opwekte, voel, te gaan componeren in gelen en blauwen en groenen, waaruit ’t landschap tevoorschijn zou komen.”

Still trying to gain a modern foothold in traditional Holland, Sluijters, together with his brothers in arms, Jan Toorop, Conrad Kickert, Leo Gestel, Kees Spoor and Piet Mondriaan, establishes ‘The Moderne Kunstkring’ in 1910. The following year the group organizes an exposition. Again Sluijters’ work is badly received in the press and four paintings are even refused by the mayor of Amsterdam to be part of the exhibition: two by Leo Gestel and two by Jan Sluijters, apparently because of their immorality (read: nude female figures). Another art critic attacks Sluijters as follows: “Het valt te betreuren dat deze man, met onmiskenbaar groot talent, niet aflaat met op de meest onbesuisde manier zijn onderwerpen te kiezen en zijn indrukken en passies onbekookt en fel op het doek te werpen”. (“It is to be regretted indeed that this undoubtfully well-talented man would choose his subjects carelessly and then would hurl his impressions and passions onto a canvas raw and fiercely!”)

Well, we do not regret it at all, especially not when we look at the present lot ‘Laantje’, that Sluijters made in 1910. Sluijters used to call his colours ‘Gevoelskleuren’ and what a feeling of sheer joy he must have had when walking down this very forest lane! For here is a Summer’s day you will never forget; with unbridled strokes of exploding colours that seem to whirl and twirl over the canvas, Sluijters has created an ever-ongoing dance of light, leaves, sky, wood and sand, in one happy celebration of nature on a glorious day. If there has ever been painted an anti-depressive on canvas it is this very painting.

Sources:
-Frouke van Dijke a.o., ‘Kleur ontketend: Moderne kunst in de lage landen, 1885-1914’, The Hague 2015.
-Jacqueline de Raad, ‘Jan Sluijters, 1881-1957’, Laren 2011.
-Carel Blotkamp, ‘Meesters van het licht: luministische schilderkunst in Nederland en Duitsland’, Rotterdam 1996.
-Anita Hopmans, ‘Jan Sluijters 1881-1957 : aquarellen en tekeningen, Zwolle 1991.
‘Kunst in de Hoofdstad: De tentoonstelling van den Modernen Kunstkring’, In: De Maasbode, 14 October 1911.
-‘Geweigerde schilderijen’, In: De Tijd: godsdienstig-staatkundig dagblad, 07 October 1911.

Voor deze kunstenaar is volgrecht van toepassing vanaf een hamerprijs van € 2400.

€ 40.000,00
€ 60.000,00
€ 110.000,00

Hamerprijs: € 110.000

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