Subscribe to our newsletter


Magical Realism in the Netherlands

Magisch Realisme in Nederland - Lyklema Fine Art

The term magical realism, also known as fantastic realism, is used in both painting and literature for a movement in the 1920s and 1930s. Reality is connected with something magical; another or higher reality. The images are therefore hallucinatory or dreamlike, hence the equivalent name fantastic realism. They are more or less realistic representations in unusual contexts and environments. The artists fell back on realism as a reaction to expressionism. Magical Realism is also related to Surrealism. The Surrealists were influenced by the Freudian assumption that in the expressions of the unconscious, thoughts and feelings are represented by symbols. The truth would lie hidden in the uncontrolled urges. The dream, associations and the unconscious also play a major role in Magical Realism. However, unlike the Surrealists, they did not strive for automatism.

The works are meticulous, almost photographic. Ambiguous perspectives and an unusual way of displaying things side by side further enhance that magical suggestion. The play of light and color and the technical perfection create mysterious, sometimes menacing paintings that give their representation of reality an alienating character. Their subjects often refer to death, threat and decay. From 1915 onwards, the Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico emerged as the pioneer of magical realism with his Pittura Metaphysics. In 1920, the German artist Max Ernst turned his back on Dadaism in Cologne and settled in Paris, at the invitation of André Breton. In 1921 he created l'Elephant Célébes and immediately became the international promoter of surrealism.

Giorgio de Chirico - Pittura Metafysica

In the Netherlands, Maurits Cornelis Escher, Carel Willink, Pyke Koch, Raoul Hynckes, Charley Toorop, Wim Schuhmacher, Dick Ket and predecessor Jan Mankes are exponents. The neorealists were not a close group or association. In Belgium, Albert Bockstael is at the cradle and prepares the way for Paul Delvaux and René Magritte, among others. Magical realists are also active in this century, such as Patricia van Lubeck, Peter van Oostzanen and Uko Post.

Pyke Koch (Beek 1901 - 1991 Wassenaar) only made 120 paintings (source RKD) but enjoys the greatest fame as a neorealist, despite his wrong sympathies and friends during the Second World War. He only started painting later in life. A big surprise for those around him because he was a gentleman of rank who thundered into the art world. Koch was inspired by slums and cinema for his work. He painted scenes that caused a stir at the time, such as a urinal in Amsterdam, a meeting place for homosexuals. In 1930, homosexuality was still often taboo and his gender-neutral works were very far ahead of the time. After the war, no trace of fascist ideas can be discovered anywhere in his paintings. His works become lighter and more cheerful.

Koch was a perfectionist. He sometimes destroyed his own works or painted over existing canvases. And despite his dubious past, Koch can be counted as one of the most important Dutch painters of the 20th century. We have also included him in the list of the most important 15 modern artists. Pyke Koch made very personal works with a special form of stillness. Koch was self-taught, stood alone and cultivated that. He did think the term magical realism fitted his work well. Koch described his paintings as 'representations that are possible, but not probable. He was a great craftsman, inspired by the Italian Renaissance. There are references to psychoanalysis, but always disguised and often in a controversial composition.

Pyke Koch - Museum Boijmans

Kunstenares Charley Toorop (1891-1955) is de dochter van Jan Toorop en groeide zo op te midden van de Nederlandse avant-garde kunstwereld. De stijl van haar vader heeft vooral in de beginfase grote invloed op haar werk. Ze bewondert Piet Mondriaan. Ze schildert korte tijd in kubistische stijl, maar vanaf 1914 werkt ze in de stijl van de ‘spirituele expressie ’met figuren omgeven door aura’s en golvende lijnen, geïnspireerd door Wassily Kandinsky. De weg van de volledige abstractie wilde Charley Toorop nooit opgaan. Ze hechtte grote waarde aan de weergave van de zichtbare werkelijkheid. Vanaf de jaren dertig schildert ze veelal vrouwenfiguren, naakten en zelfportretten. Toorop ontwikkelt een nieuw soort realisme, waarin ze de werkelijkheid op een confronterende, haast zakelijke manier neerzet. Een bekend schilderij is Drie generaties uit 1950 in de collectie van Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Ze schildert met krachtige penseelstreken. Vanwege de magische sfeer, die haar doeken wordt ze ook beschouwd als magisch realist.

Drie generaties - Charley Toorop - RKD

De Jonge Generatie

Dick Ket (1902 – 1940) mainly painted self-portraits and still lifes. Due to his poor health, he was housebound and continued to live with his parents. He went to the Arnhem school for visual arts and crafts. There he became friends with painter Johan Mekkink. Ket himself was initially influenced by George Hendrik Breitner and Floris Verster. He painted, using the palette knife, in an impressionist style. From 1930 onwards Ket changed his painting technique. He switched to a more refined detailed realistic representation with the angular lines of cubism. Arranging the geometric shapes of his still lifes. Ket admired artist Jan Mankes, who, like him, was very impressed by the Flemish primitives.

Dubbelportret met zijn vader - 1939 Dubbelportret Dick Ket met zijn vader - 1939


Maurits Cornelis Escher (1898-1972) is one of the world's most famous graphic artists. During the time that he lives and works in Italy, he already creates realistic works such as the lithograph Castrovalva in which the fascination with perspective can be seen. He is most famous for his so-called impossible drawings, such as Ascending and Descending and Relativity. During his life, Escher made 448 lithographs, woodcuts and wood engravings and more than 2000 drawings and sketches. M.C. Escher is fascinated by the regular geometric figures of the wall and floor mosaics in the Alhambra, a fourteenth-century castle in Granada, Spain, which he visits in 1922 and 1936. He plays with architecture, perspective and impossible spaces. M.C. Escher shows us that reality is wonderful, understandable and fascinating. He is therefore (also) an exponent of magical realism.

M.C. Escher - Hand met Spiegelende Bol - The M.C. Escher Company

Raoul Hynckes (Brussels 1893 – 1973 Blaricum) was a Dutch painter of Belgian descent who started with impressionistic paintings, but in the 1930s started with allegorical, very meticulous works. Withered trees, old nails, skulls were his specialty. He is considered one of the magical realists with an almost lugubrious representation of reality.

Raoul Huynkes - Bloemen - 1941 - Museum More

Raoul Huynkes - Flowers - 1941 - Museum More


Jan Mankes (Meppel 1889 – 1920) started painting birds and nests in the dunes of The Hague and the surrounding area. In the beginning, Mankes mainly painted dark birds in dark tones, later also light-colored, mostly white animals such as roosters and rabbits. His love for nature later received an extra boost in Friesland. One of his masterpieces is the painting of the Woudsterweg where he lived with his parents for six years. In 1913 he met Anne Zernike, a theologian and the first female preacher in the Netherlands. Mankes was struck down early by tuberculosis; When things went a little better he worked continuously. Mankes left behind an oeuvre of about 150 small paintings, about 100 drawings and about 50 prints. Nature is the main subject in more than half of his work. He also made (self) portraits, still lifes, landscapes and interiors. His work is characterized by a certain silence through balanced compositions and subdued use of color, as well as a barely visible brushstroke.

Jan Mankes - Bomenrij
Jan Mankes - row with trees

Wim Schuhmacher (Amsterdam 1894 - 1986) was a visual artist in the broadest sense. He made paintings and drawings, and designed furniture and sets for plays. Schuhmacher found many of his motifs in the Mediterranean. For years he traveled to and in France, Italy and Spain. His paintings are carefully painted, without a visible touch. The shapes are sleek and accurately depicted. He is often associated with the New Objectivity and is related to the Bergen School. His nickname is The Master of Gray, after the gray haze that seems to hang over his later paintings.

Schuhmacher - 2 Vrouwen

Schuhmacher - 2 Women

Previous Article Next Article