Johan Thorn Prikker (The Hague 1868 – Cologne 1932) was a Dutch artist who taught and made (glass) art in Germany from 1904. He worked in a Symbolist, Impressionist and Art Nouveau style and was perhaps the first true expressionist. He was a versatile artist with graphics, batiks and furniture. In Germany, where he lived after 1904, he was seen primarily as a pioneering stained glass designer and maker of spectacular mosaics and murals. Its angular, expressionistic design from before 1910 still has some influence from the Art Nouveau style.
His later works showed a pronounced expressionist style with flowing lines, more geometry and intense colors. He was the first to abandon the naturalistic and impressionistic representation of reality and to express emotion in pigments. After 1930 all recognizable elements disappear.
Johan Thorn Prikker was the son of a house painter. He married Helena Charlotta Spree on April 13, 1898. She died in early 1899 after a miscarriage. He remarried on July 17, 1903 to Gijsberta Cramer. From 1881 to 1887, Johan attended the art academy in The Hague, without completing it.
In 1890 he was introduced into the Belgian artist group Les XX by Jan Toorop and into the Rosicrucian community by Joséphin Péladan in 1892. His small painting oeuvre was largely completed between 1891 and 1895. They are symbolist works, which appeal to feelings and not to reason. They consciously look for the 'inexplicable'. Often with a religious theme such as Christ and the virgin bride. At that time he was mainly influenced by Japanese woodcarving and the Pre-Raphaelites. After a few initial pointillist attempts, he quickly switched to the linear style of Art Nouveau. He was deeply religious and a committed Christian and was strongly influenced by the religious ideas of the Nabis.
From 1898 he was artistic director of the art dealership Arts & Crafts in The Hague, which he founded with the architect and artist Chris Wegerif. The spread of the decorative direction with a style inspired by Belgian Art Nouveau was the goal. At that time, Henry Van de Velde created the villa De Zeemeeuw in Scheveningen as a Gesamtkunstwerk. Thorn Prikker, together with Jan Altorf, provided the stairwell with an extensive wall painting based on Indian fables. In 1904, after disagreements with Wegerif about the course, he left for Germany. His designs were not sufficiently in line with the current art at the time, such as that propagated by the artists around Berlage. The more elegant style of anarchist Thorn Prikker did not go together with this.
That year he became a teacher at the newly founded Handwerker- und Kunstgewerbeschule in Krefeld, where Helmuth Macke, Wilhelm Wieger and Heinrich Campendonk were his first students. His versatility becomes apparent when, in addition to 'en plein air' landscape painting and wall paintings, he also focuses on furniture and fabric designs in the style of Art Nouveau.
Around 1910, in Hagen, he actively participated in the reform ideas of Karl Ernst Osthaus and also started teaching there. He had already collaborated on his Hohenhof. It resulted in numerous commissions for wall paintings, mosaics and especially stained glass windows, including in 1912 for the Gesellenhaus in Neuss, designed by Peter Behrens. He is the first to include lead rods in the design of the stained glass windows. After a short stay in Überlingen in 1919, he left for Munich, where he taught glass painting and monumental art at the Kunstgewerbeschule, then at the Staatlichen Kunstakademie in Düsseldorf until 1926, and from 1926 until his death at the Kölner Werkschulen.
Important art projects include the large window in the hall of Hagen station (1910), windows for the Epiphany Church in Neuss, windows in the Liebfrauenkirche in Krefeld (1914), the mural cycle The Four Stages of Life in the Kaiser Wilhelm Museum in Krefeld (1923) and windows in Sankt Georg in Cologne (1929). Meanwhile, in the Netherlands he painted murals in the town halls of Rotterdam (1926/27) and Amsterdam (1930/32).