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Geer van Velde

Geer van Velde - Lyklema Fine Art

Gerard van Velde (Lisse 1898 – Cachan (Fr) 1977) is more famous in France than in the Netherlands. And that is unfair. Geer van Velde is one of the leading artists of the post-war École de Paris. Like many novice artists, he first made figurative-expressionist work, but when he found his own style around 1938 with his areas of color combined with the Mediterranean light, his works were undeniably by Geer van Velde and therefore art with a K.

Gerard moved a lot in his youth because his father kept changing jobs. The family consisted of five children, including brother Bram, who later also became a painter. In his boyhood, the brothers wandered around The Hague a lot, sketching the meadows, mills and farms there. After primary school he also had to earn money and was employed as an apprentice by the painting and decoration studio 'Van Schaijk en Co.'. Here the brothers were encouraged to become proficient in copying old master paintings. This is how they both learned to mix colors and paint. The atmosphere and light in the still lifes of Heda and Pieter Claeszoon particularly fascinated him. The symbolism of Jan Toorop also appealed to him very much. And you see that in his earlier works.



Ecole de Paris

At the beginning of 1925 he ended up in Paris, via Belgium, where he temporarily lived with his older brother Bram. He was captivated by work by Le Corbusier, Fernand Leger and Robert Delaunay. Not much later, Carel Willink mediated to be allowed to exhibit at De Onhoudenen.

Although Bram placed more emphasis on direct spontaneity and Geer more on the natural and essential in things, it is difficult to distinguish the works of the two brothers in this phase; both painters had not yet let go of reality. Circumstances were dire for Geer in 1930-31; he lived a lot on the street between the clochards and could often be found in café Le Dôme; He also gave this location as a postal address to his patron Kramers. In 1931 he met fashion designer Elisabeth Jokl, whom he married in 1936.


Plenty of friends, but a breakthrough is not (yet) forthcoming

He got to know other artists such as the cubists Metzinger and Gleizes, but also the Spanish painter Ismael de la Serna and the Irish writer Samuel Beckett, Kandinsky and Paul Klee. In 1938, thanks to his friend Samuel Beckett, Geer received an offer to exhibit in Peggy Guggenheim's gallery in London; it became his first solo exhibition, where 45 of his works were on display. Beckett wrote the accompanying lyrics. However, most reviewers continued to see his work as a continuation of Cubism and as an imitation of Picasso and were not very complimentary. The exhibition also yielded little in terms of sales; only a few of his works were purchased by Peggy Guggenheim herself.


From 1938 onwards his work underwent a radical change and settled in the southern French town of Cagnes-sur-Mer, where he developed his own abstract-geometric visual language, strongly focused on the expression of light with a restrained use of color, depicted in matte tones and large surfaces. The work becomes more and more abstract and is more and more about the balance within the composition. Around 1939-40 Geer painted an abstract composition on canvas, which he would call his 'first completely autonomous work', i.e. free from influences from the world around him. The painting of 33 x 45 cm was constructed in a wide format, divided into four long strips, in muted colors of green and blue. He later stated that he had completely broken away from the tragic and vulgar side of his own youth work.

Catching the light

Van Velde found his own and quite indirect way of transferring a sketch onto linen, which meant he had to work on the painting for a very long time. The canvas was first prepared in several layers with various materials and then mounted on a wooden board, after which another layer of zinc white was applied. Only then was the composition laid out in lines with charcoal, which then mixed with the zinc white - after which the oil was extracted from the resulting top layer with newspaper. The lines were thus left palpable on the still white canvas; Only then did he begin to apply the colors and surfaces in oil paint in a matte gloss. During painting, an existing oil paint layer was continuously sanded off after drying with pumice stone, until finally the 'conquête', as Geer himself called his mastery of the whole, was achieved. The result of all this was that the paint skin of the resulting painting did not directly reflect the light, but first absorbed it, creating all kinds of different color intensities. The radiating light of a painting was the goal of art in his eyes.


After 1945 his compositions became even more simplified. Geer himself put it this way: “..the essential is not one or another object, but the space that exists between the two. That is quite different from their size or their perspective....Things are snares to the light; there is no one who does not want to let the light in, even within the most opaque things there is light.” In September 1948, a short article about both brothers appeared in the 'Kroniek van Kunst en Kultuur', after which the two brothers were invited to participate with five works each in the exhibition of contemporary artists from The Hague in the Gemeentemuseum. However, a real breakthrough failed to materialize. An exhibition in the Maeght gallery in Paris was also not financially successful, after which Maeght decided to sever the connection with both Geer and Bram.

Complete abstraction

In the Parisian suburb of Cachan, Geer increasingly retreated to his house and studio - he hardly visited Paris itself anymore. After 1966, light continued to dominate his work; it now no longer rises from things to the surface, but falls on top of them. The paintings from these years show surfaces that sometimes become ragged, which also strengthen the dynamics. The rhythm has become floating and driving, driving the fields in concentric circles. The complete abstraction.

Because of his oeuvre, Geer van Velde is a highly sought-after artist and one of the exponents of the École de Paris. We are proud that we have managed to obtain one of his preliminary studies from his search for abstraction. Which is also framed in a beautiful Gehring & Heijdenrijk frame. And it's for sale!

Mediterranee 1946-Singer La Grande Blue

Mediterranee 1946-Singer La Grande Blue


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