Gerardus Hordijk (The Hague 1899 – 1958 Amsterdam) was a Dutch graphic artist, illustrator, set designer and painter. Gerard studied architecture in Delft, simultaneously attending the Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague, where he received instruction from, among others, Willem van Konijnenburg. He successfully completed both studies.
As early as 1925, Piet Boendermaker began acquiring his works. Boendermaker also purchased works from other French-oriented painters such as Jos Croin, Charles Eyck, Raoul Hynckes, Otto van Rees, and Toon Kelder at that time. In 1927, he lived in Paris in the same building where Mondrian resided on Rue du Départ, and he even painted Mondrian's portrait. In his initial years in Paris, he created numerous oil paintings, gouaches, and watercolors, depicting scenes like the circus and ballet. As a painter, he often revealed his identity as a draftsman, incorporating lines into his canvases, rarely relying solely on color and brushstroke. Color was primarily used decoratively and held little expressive value. It is evident that Hordijk was more of a draftsman than a painter.
He was greatly influenced by the works of Henri Matisse and Raoul Dufy. In Paris, Hordijk developed his own style. His early works were dark with abundant ochres, while his later work achieved simplicity and serenity. He painted numerous beach scenes with bathing women, carnivals, theater, dance, and circuses. During this period, he achieved more success than Mondrian. Hordijk absorbed influences from various art movements, selectively incorporating only those aspects that contributed to his own vision. His struggle to escape diverse influences and find his unique visual language is evident throughout his oeuvre.
In 1929, Hordijk met his wife, the American Margaret Mathews, with whom he had their first child, John Gerard, in 1931. In 1935, Hordijk left Paris for Amsterdam. He frequently exhibited, sold well, and designed stage sets and costumes for various important plays, including Vondel's 'Lucifer' in 1935, 'Liluli' in 1937, and the opera 'Le donne curiose' in 1938.
In 1936, Hordijk joined the editorial board of the magazine 'Kroniek van hedendaagsche Kunst en Kultuur' (KKK). He formed a friendship with Ir. M.H. Damme, the CEO of Werkspoor, who provided him with numerous commissions for Werkspoor and other companies. In 1939, the city of Amsterdam commissioned Hordijk to create murals in the Stadsschouwburg and the Concertgebouw.
In March 1940, the family sailed aboard the MS Zaandam to New York, similar to Mondrian, as they sought refuge from the threat of war. The two painters frequently met and stayed in touch through small notes. Their vastly different artistic views did not hinder a lifelong friendship.
In New York, Hordijk regularly organized group exhibitions in which exiled European artists participated for free. The proceeds from painting sales supported artists in Europe facing shortages of painting materials. Hordyk received a commission for four large murals in the United Nations Headquarters, gaining acclaim. In 1943, he was invited for a solo exhibition at the renowned Wildenstein gallery.
In 1943, his eight-year-old daughter died during a sailing trip on the Hudson, and in the spring of 1944, his close friend Piet Mondrian passed away. His marriage faced difficulties in the subsequent years. In 1948, Hordijk returned alone to Amsterdam. His ex-wife and son, now American citizens, remained in America.
In Amsterdam, he moved into a studio at Kromme Waal, No. 17, where he lived until his death. Despite declining interest in figurative art, Hordijk was not without work. For (once again) Werkspoor, the Holland Festival, De Jaarbeurs, the presidential train carriage for Juan & Evita Perron, various ministries, and Puem, he created (wall) decorations.
Hordijk also joined the Hollandse Aquarellistenkring, founded by Otto de Kat and Kees Verwey to counterbalance abstract and experimental painters. He became an illustrator for the popular children's magazine Kris Kras and an editorial member of Kroniek van Hedendaagsche Kunst en Kultuur.
In 2006, Utrecht-based art dealer Marcel Gieling discovered the nearly complete estate of Hordijk in an abandoned villa in Armonk, 60 kilometers north of Manhattan. It included hundreds of paintings, watercolors, and numerous letters to and from Piet Mondrian, Jan Wiegers, Frits Klein, Adriaan Lubbers, and Germ de Jong.
For more information please read the monograph 'Gerard Hordijk, een kleurrijk schilder' by Marcel Gieling, published by Optima.
Muurschildering pleinfoyer stadschouwburg
Paarden via Circusweb