The post-war period

Claudia Rajlich, Paris, January 2003

In the Netherlands, where the art scene had been isolated and restricted during WWII, abstraction became a favorite means of expression once peace was restored. Although a few artists, like Willem Schrofer (1898-1968), Pieter de Haard (1914-2000) and Lou Loeber (1894-1983), had been experimenting with color theories and Neo-Plasticism in earlier years, this new preference sprang directly from recent happenings. For one, the horrors of war and its aftermath did not allow for Realism, which had been extremely popular in the 1930s, as a means to reestablish a hopeful society. An alternative had to be found and abstraction, which en plus had been condemned by the Nazis, appeared very suitable. Secondly, Willem Sandberg, director of the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, staged a range of exhibitions featuring artists, key to the maturation of abstract art.

Andre van der Vossen, 1950, gouache.

Andre van der Vossen, 1950, gouache.

Vrij Beelden (1946-1955) was the first association regrouping abstract artists in post-war Holland. It included painters like André van der Vossen (1893-1963) and Josef Ongenae (1921-1993), who worked in the geometric, impersonal, objective vein, as well as artists like Hans Ittmann (1914-1972) and Willy Boers (1905-1978), who were the most illustrative of the gestural, expressive lyrical current. Then there were members like Ger Gerrits (1893-1965), who initially expanded on Cubism, or Will (1923-1986), who leant towards Surrealism, and also Frieda Hunziker (1908-1966) or Jaap Stellaart (1920-1992), who passed through a variety of abstract influences. When Piet Ouborg (1893-1956), among the affiliates whose work still included recognizable figurative elements, won the Jacob Maris Prize 1950, the Dutch press was scandalized. The public was a step behind on the artists, but this was soon to change.

By the end of the decade, abstraction had become the dominant art form. The influential École de Paris faced Abstract Expressionism that had swept the USA. A fusion of the two currents materialized in the works of Shlomo Koren (1932) and Gerard Verdijk (1934): the heavy impasto and spontaneous calligraphy of the French combine