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Melancholic Jan van Heel

Melancholische Jan van Heel - Lyklema Fine Art

Jan van Heel (1898-1990) was a teacher and worked in Rotterdam until 1925 and attended the evening course at the Rotterdam Academy of Visual Arts. He then settled in The Hague and was also a drawing teacher there until his retirement. He became a member of Pulchri Studio in 1928 and developed more and more as an artist. After the war he worked briefly in Paris and there developed a formal language that is illustrative and unique: Subdued and melancholic. You can rightly call Van Heel a late bloomer who was only seen at exhibitions in the early 1950s.

In 1951 he founded the group Verve with artists from The Hague, such as Herman Berserik, Co Westerik, Willem Hussem and Jaap Nanninga, and in 1960 the group Fugare. During that time he found his own style. His well-known work is therefore considered part of the New Hague School; 'the Hague's answer to Cobra' and, just like them, wanted to break with pre-war artistic conventions. However, less radical than the Amsterdam 'Experimentals'. Their paintings had muted colors, were recognisably figurative and exuded modesty.

Jan van Heel-Kind met suikerbeest-Stadsmuseum Harderwijk
Kind met suikerbeest-Stadsmuseum Harderwijk


Stadsmuseum Harderwijk received more than 100 paintings by Van Heel between 1983 and 1988 and devoted an exhibition to them in 1982 and at the end of his life. Van Heel has been collected by many museums and is therefore probably popular with private individuals. Van Heel's scenes immediately draw you in." You can often place it directly in your own life.


Jan van Heel-Clowns-Stadsmuseum Harderwijk
Jan van Heel-Clowns-City Museum Harderwijk

Jan van Heel made many melancholy clown portraits, still lifes of discarded toys, cityscapes, Spanish landscapes and many animals, especially birds; these do not fly but are caged, sometimes they lie with their legs up.

You don't see big drama, but small suffering. Van Heel didn't shout, he whispered. It is precisely the stillness, she thinks, that will appeal to people now: “It is often moving work.”
Stilleven-1954-Centraal Museum
Stilleven-1954-Centraal Museum

More than the other paintings, the landscapes have characteristic colors – burning ocher yellow, saturated brown, glowing red – and come close to abstraction and extroversion. From 1955 onwards, Van Heel spends almost every year in Spain and sees and paints the large naked structural lines of hills and mountains in the scorching heat. After his trip to Spain he also painted 'Winter in Westland'. The desolation is typical of this part of his work.

Jan van Heel-Kassen Westland Museum
Winter in het Westland-Westsland Museum

Van Heel served on many boards. For example, he was a member of the selection committees for the Dutch entry for the Venice and Paris Biennale between 1954 and 1963.

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