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Constructivist Jaap Egmond

Jaap Egmond-Museumhuis Amstelveen

Jacob Johannes Egmond (New York 1913 - Amstelveen 1997) was active as a teacher, painter and sculptor. He is best known for his characteristic abstract wall reliefs. He was the son of a skipper, so he sailed the oceans as a toddler. Due to the threat of the First World War, the family moved back to Amsterdam. He was a student at the Piano Conservatory for 1 year, but in 1932 he transferred to the National Institute for the Training of Drawing Teachers. The choice for one art form was difficult for this multi-talent.

After his education, he started as a drawing teacher at various schools in Amsterdam in 1937. In the early 1960s, he and his colleague Klaas de Poel developed a new teaching method for the Teachers' Training School. In 1969, after a search for his way of expression, Egmond settled as an artist in Amstelveen. He found the answer in the combination of mathematics and abstract geometric art – absolute simplicity with a mathematical background. He started making paper reliefs on a square surface.

Sketches full of arrows and calculations of angles of inclination, rhythms and results to be achieved preceded the final paper reliefs. A slope, a path of light, a beautiful shadow or a path breaks the pattern of apparently similar white square surfaces. Exactly as Jaap had thought. He created several hundred reliefs in cardboard and paper. The play of light and shadow is essential for the white paper reliefs. By arranging fewer or more similar elements, the rhythm of the tilting surfaces is created, depending on the light.

Relief 1979

In the early 1970s he started exhibiting at galleries and art institutions, including the Stedelijk. In 1976 he participated with members of the Dutch Circle of Sculptors in a major exhibition in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.

The municipality of Amstelveen offered him a room in the former Piet Heyn primary school on Dorpsstraat. Here he spent all his free hours and became friends with the artists Jan Verschoor and Rob Brünnmayer. They bought work from him and Verschoor and Egmond exhibited together in the Artists Center in Bergen and later in Galerie Bouma in Amsterdam: 'Jaap on the wall and Jan on the floor'. Later he experimented with free-standing work in wood and steel, and also made paintings. In the 1980s he provided a total theater with Wim de Ruiter, including in the Ijsbreker. Large sculptures of Egmond as a backdrop for modern music.
Compositie vierkant-diagonaal 1985
Compositie vierkant-diagonaal 1985

Egmond is seen as a constructivist and representative of minimalism. His work is influenced by the Dutch Zero movement, which had disintegrated when he made his first work. Characteristic is the play with light and shadow, and the monochromy. Schoonhoven started from intuition and looked for visual beauty. Egmond, on the other hand, based his work on mathematical formulas and calculations. It is striking that both Schoonhoven and Egmond had no problem with future owners using the brush themselves to provide the discolored or dusty relief with a layer of new paint. It was not without reason that Jaap put the color numbers on the back. In the last years of his artistic career, Jaap Egmond allowed color into his work.


Relief in
Relief in

Jaap had four children with his wife Joke. Three sons manage his estate and even re-release some three-dimensional works under Egmondatelier so that more people can enjoy them. They also still perform his unexecuted sketches. They can be seen on the Wenckebachweg in Amsterdam. A biography from 2013 with more than 70 pages of text and images can be ordered via Egmond did not sign or signed very briefly with a single 'e'. The titles remained businesslike, down-to-earth like the artist himself.

Jaap Egmond 1972


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