Jan Sluijters is regarded as a major innovator of twentieth-century Dutch art. He saw himself as a painter ‘pur sang’ and actively took part in the artistic life of his time. During his visit to Paris in 1906 he became fascinated by the work of Neo-Impressionists, Fauvists and such painters as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Kees van Dongen. Together with Mondriaan he introduced new art styles from France like luminism. But it was the assimilation of French influences into a divisionist style that brought about the breakthrough for Amsterdam’s avant-garde painters in 1909 and that paved the way generally for the development of modern art in the Netherlands. Although Sluijters experimented with futurism and cubism in his work, he never lost sight of the real world: realism formed the basis of everything he drew or painted.
His subjects were traditional themes such as still lives (especially flowers) and landscapes. But the human figure, and more specific the female nude was, especially during the second part of his career, a constantly important and almost dominating subject in the oeuvre of Jan Sluijters. In his earlier work his first wife Bertha Langerhorst and his second wife Greet van Cooten used to pose for him. From the 20’s onwards however, he would work mainly with different models. Even though Sluijters was a celebrated painter, his works did not always stay without criticism. In the years after 1905 his work was considered controversial because the garish colours he used were strange to the public. Moreover, the ‘coarse technique’ and depictions of naked women caused regular exclusion of his paintings from exhibitions.
While in his early paintings Sluijters experimented with bright colours and vigorous brushstrokes, his later oeuvre is characterized by a subtler blend of expressionism and realism, of which this painting is an example. Unlike his contemporaries in the 1930’s, he did not take great notice in allegory and symbolism in his compositions. Instead he was more and more occupied with the questions and problems of painting itself. Following the examples of contemporary schools like the ‘Bergense school’ and the ‘magisch realisten’, his colors sobered down slightly in the 1930’s, becoming somewhat greyer. Even his nudes could become technical accessories, almost attributes within a composition.
In the present painting one sees that Sluijters, in contrast to what he did in his early paintings, now sets his model against a brightly colored and impressionistic background, making her stand out. The tender way in which the model is rendered and the use of soft colors in her face makes her appear fragile and emphasize her introvert gaze.
private collection Jan Sluijters jr., Hilversum;
art dealer G.J. Scherpel, Bussum, circa 1987; acquired from the above in 1987
by the present owner; with Douwes Fine Art, Amsterdam, 2017.
March 1987 at the Antiques International Pictura Fine Art Fair in Maastricht.
J.de Raad, ‘Oeuvrecatalogus van Jan Sluijters’, RKD Bulletin 1998, nr. 1, pp. 1-4 (image).
A.Rens, ‘Het geschilderde oeuvre van Jan Sluijters’, Origine 2014, nr. 2, pp. 40-41.
A.Rens, ‘Het geschilderde oeuvre van Jan Sluijters’, RKD Bulletin 2014, nr. 1, pp. 50-52.
H.Luns, ‘Jan Sluijters’, in: Palet Serie, Amsterdam 1941, pp. 45-49.