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NUL=Jan Schoonhoven

NUL=Jan Schoonhoven - Lyklema Fine Art

Jan Schoonhoven (Delft 1914-1994) is one of the leading Dutch artists
minimalist artists from the 20th century and the greatest Delft master after Johannes Vermeer; both played with the light. With his unique visual language he has influenced generations of artists. From the late 1950s onwards he developed a completely unique visual language with his monochrome-white reliefs of paper and cardboard and belonged to the European avant-garde. His oeuvre is characterized by the art of omission.

The young Schoonhoven attended MULO, drew a lot and was taught by a local painter at the age of 13. From 1930 to 1934 he studied at the Academy of Visual Arts in The Hague in order to become a drawing teacher and thus earn a steady income. At that time he also started painting in the style of German Expressionism. Paul Klee, George Grosz and Otto Dix inspired him. The early paintings and watercolors also resemble Klee's works. In 1938 he joined the Independents and the Hague Art Circle so that he could also exhibit. He destroyed much work from this early period shortly afterwards.

Schoonhoven worked at the Central Buildings Department of the PTT from 1946 until his retirement, which fits well with the image of Schoonhoven as someone who loved order and regularity. His artistry took place in the evenings and during free weekends. From 1953 onwards he made crafts with paper and cardboard for his son: knight's castles, factories, churches and even a mountain massif. The "Apostle House" is probably the only artefact left from this period and was restored by Museum Prinsenhof in Delft in 2019–2021.

Around 1956-57 he started making his very first monochrome white reliefs, no longer in paint but in papier-mâché, in order to get a tangible appearance in his work. Thee pasty abstract paintings by Bram Bogart were inspiring. From now on, Schoonhoven used pieces of ribbed cardboard, paper mache and many toilet rolls as materials for his works of art. They were mounted on a plywood surface. The representations in these first reliefs were created according to geometric principles. These works of art have no title, but only letters (referring to the type of work of art, such as T for drawing and R for relief), followed by a number (for the year of manufacture) and a serial number.

Van Schoonhoven: 'For me it's about a completely white surface. Apart from any painterly phenomenon, apart from any interference that is alien to the value of the surface. The white is not a polar landscape, not a matter that evokes certain associations, not a beautiful matter, not a sensation, not a symbol or anything else. A white surface is a white surface.' Schoonhoven had become one with his birthplace; Elements from the everyday, such as fences and roof tiles, often return in his abstract works. He repeated those geometric shapes, making it special. Light and shadow played an important role here.

In 1957 he founded the Informal Group in the Schoonhoven home with Bram Bogart, Armando, Van Bohemen, Jan Henderikse and Henk Peeters. The 'Informal' want to emphasize the expression of the material, in response to the emotional approach of painters, such as Cobra. The group had various exhibitions, including in Germany and Antwerp. Some of the Informals then continued into the Zero group; radically looking for an objective art without emotional value. 'You must strive for a minimum, but it is never possible anonymously.' Nul was affiliated with the international ZERO movement of Heinz Mack, among others.

From 1978 onwards, expressive calligraphic, pen and brush drawings with lines, dots and hatches also emerged. During his life, Jan Schoonhoven regularly exhibited with internationally related artists from Germany and Italy, among others. In 1964, Schoonhoven organized the now famous exhibition 'Nul/ZERO' in the Gemeentemuseum with work by NUL members together with their German kindred spirits of ZERO: Heinz Mack, Otto Piene and Günther Uecker. In 1968 there was a solo exhibition in the Van Abbemuseum. International recognition followed in 1979 with a second prize at the ninth São Paulo Biennale. In 1984 – after the David Roëll Prize – a new overview followed in the Hague Municipal Museum.

Schoonhoven-Apostelhuis in karton-Museum Prinsenhof Delft
Schoonhoven-Apostelhuis in karton-Museum Prinsenhof Delft - foto via NRC
Zonder titel-Kunstmuseum
Zonder titel-kunstmuseum
Cercle Disk-Kunstmuseum
Cercle Disk-Kunstmuseum
Relief-Kroller Muller
Relief-Kroller Muller
Inkt op papier-Kunstmuseum
Inkt op papier-Kunstmuseum
Foto Schoonhoven door Lothar Wolleh
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