Mythe en Magie

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Slaapwandelende haan, 1949 Oil, Resin Paint, Phosphorus Paint And Cardboard On Board 69,8 X 99,5 Cm © Collectie Stedelijk Museum Schiedam
untitled , ca 1954 Watercolour, Paper, Ink, Pencil, Crayon And Coloured Pencil On Paper 25 X 15,9 Cms © collectiion Stedelijk Museum Schiedam
Mythe en Magie

Hoogstraat 112-114
3111 HL Schiedam
April 27th, 2013 - September 1st, 2013
Opening: April 27th, 2013 10:00 AM - 5:00 PM

+31 (10) 246 3666
Tue-Sun 10-5


The Stedelijk Museum Schiedam presents an extensive selection of 135 works from the oeuvre of CoBrA artist Jan Nieuwenhuijs (Amsterdam, 1922 – Amsterdam, 1986). The work has a fairy-tale wealth of forms and colours, combining a variety of techniques. The paintings, gouaches and drawings are characterized by a brilliant and exuberant use of colour that hardly changed over the years.

In 1948, and in conjunction with artists such as Karel Appel, Constant and Corneille, he founded the Experimental Group in Holland, which was incorporated into the international CoBrA movement in the same year. These artists shared an unconventional use of materials and a quest for new themes. The work of Jan Nieuwenhuijs demonstrates the attainments that make the CoBrA idiom so special: it shows a freedom and spontaneity based on a keen interest in the experiment and choice for personal expression. Within this context Nieuwenhuijs developed an individual oeuvre, in which surrealism has no less a special place.

Jan Nieuwenhuijs painted visionary worlds, filled with fantastic creatures that seem to be floating in an indefinable space. Here an affinity with Joan Mirò comes to the fore. Another major source of inspiration was Paul Klee, who managed to achieve maximum expression in small drawings with scant means. Nieuwenhuijs admired this work and in his turn he made hundreds of small-sized drawings on various kinds of paper which were often stuck on pages in books for strength. In terms of style Klee likewise served as an example: his linear, hooky style of drawing and way of stacking different elements into three-dimensional constructions come to light again in Nieuwenhuijs's work.

To the present day, there have been few opportunities to view Jan Nieuwenhuijs's oeuvre. However, this exhibition together with the first artist's monography to be published at the same time will change this. The works on view are predominantly originating from the collection of the artist's widow, Mrs Cocky Nieuwenhuijs-Debets. Furthermore we have drawn on our own collection of the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam. In addition the exhibition gave the National Institute for Cultural Heritage cause to loan various works by Jan Nieuwenhuijs to the Stedelijk Museum Schiedam on a long-term basis.

Jan Nieuwenhuijs made a specific contribution to post-World War II art. In 1948 he was a co-founder of the Experimental Group in Holland, which amalgamated with other movements into the international    CoBrA group. He energetically fastened upon the experiment, drawing his inspiration from the child's spontaneity that was so highly commended at the time. Like the other CoBrA artists Jan Nieuwenhuijs was attracted by an expressionist way of working and experimenting with materials and colours. Or, as he put it himself: 'I rely on my matter and my colour. This is how I express myself. Starting from the matter I arrive at my subject and that may well be the reverse of what painters used to do in former days. I paint the way I write, the way I laugh. That's why my paintings are different in each case because my moods are different.'    
His paintings, gouaches and drawings are alternately figurative and abstract. Among his favourite subjects were the circus, women and animal figures, which he depicted in a loose and flowing style. These themes afforded him great freedom to create a dream world where he could combine all sorts of materials and techniques. So in fact Nieuwenhuijs always remained a true 'avant-garde artist'.  

The exhibition Jan Nieuwenhuijs. Myth and Magic will not only be on view in Schiedam, but will also travel on to be presented in two museums in Denmark: the Skovhuset in Værløse and the Carl-Henning Pedersen & Else Alfelts Museum in Herning. In Denmark, where he had an exhibition in 1948 with a number of CoBrA artists, Jan Nieuwenhuijs's work is valued highly.    

The Stedelijk Museum Schiedam has a number of early works by Jan Nieuwenhuijs in its collection. These are donations by Goos and Truus Verweij-de Graaff. Goos Verweij used to have a printing business in Schiedam and made posters and fine art prints, among other things, for a number of CoBrA artists such as Constant, Jan Elburg and Jan Nieuwenhuijs. These contacts developed into friendships between Goos Verweij and the artists. On the occasion of the wedding of Goos Verweij and Truus de Graaff in 1970 they presented the Museum with the work Slaapwandelende Haan (Somnabulant Cock) (1949) by Jan Nieuwenhuijs. The work has been on view ever since on a virtually permanent basis. Children in particular love this work because of the merry cock dancing on a tightrope.

Al eind jaren 1980 had het Stedelijk Museum Schiedam het voornemen een solotentoonstelling van Jan Nieuwenhuijs te maken. Na bijna 25 jaar is het gelukt om een overzichtstentoonstelling en een boek te maken; de eerste monografie over Jan Nieuwenhuijs. De tentoonstelling bestaat uit ongeveer 140 werken: schilderijen op doek en board, gouaches, aquarellen en vooral tekeningen. De werken zijn voornamelijk afkomstig uit de collectie van Cocky Nieuwenhuijs-Debets. Naar aanleiding van de tentoonstelling heeft zij een vijftal werken aan het museum geschonken.

Als een van de oprichters in 1948 van de Nederlandse ‘Experimentele Groep’, die kort daarna overging in de internationale ‘Groep CoBrA’, heeft Jan Nieuwenhuijs zijn bijdrage geleverd aan de vernieuwing van de kunst na de Tweede Wereldoorlog. Vol energie stortte hij zich op het experiment, waarbij hij zich liet inspireren door de indertijd geroemde spontaniteit van het kind. Zijn schilderijen, gouaches en tekeningen hebben een sprookjesachtige rijkdom aan vormen en kleuren, die afwisselend figuratief en abstract zijn. Zijn geliefde onderwerpen zijn het circus, vrouwen en dierfiguren en vooral diverse mengvormen daarvan, die los en vloeiend worden neergezet. Deze thema’s geven hem een grote vrijheid om een droomwereld te realiseren, waarin hij allerlei materialen en technieken combineert.