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The Pursuit for Color by Hillenius

The Pursuit for Color by Hillenius

Jaap Hillenius (1934-1999) style is often described as a personal variant of nineteenth-century Impressionism, with Manet and Seurat being his major influences. These techniques inspired his paintings and graphics. Initially, Hillenius drew and painted in a figurative manner and called himself a "sensitive expressionist" in his early years. His primary interest lay in human perception. In 1970, Hillenius decided to dedicate the rest of his life to developing a single painting: a sunny, summer landscape with people under a tree by the water, reminiscent of Seurat's famous work, "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte." Hillenius embarked on a study of various aspects: color, light, rhythm, movement, and the visual elements of water, grass, and flowers. To study and depict these subjects as optimally as possible, he traveled extensively. For instance, he went to the jungles of Guatemala to study trees. Many of the artworks he created during this period can be seen as preliminary studies for that one major work.

A Lifelong Pursuit of Perception and Color

In series of works, Hillenius explored how painterly accents can guide the viewer's eye movement across the painting. He wanted looking at his artwork to be an entirely new experience. However, because the human memory links what one sees to what is already known, this happens less quickly with a figurative work, and viewing is influenced. Ultimately, he discovered that color affects how one looks at an image and that the contrast between colors determines the spatial experience. Hillenius predominantly used pointillism in bright, pure colors in his artworks. Additionally, he employed large color fields and lines. Some works are festive explosions of color, while others are more subdued.


From 1982 to 1990, Hillenius was a professor at the Rijksacademie voor Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam, in the drawing and painting department. Jaap was the younger brother of writer Dick Hillenius, whose book "De vreemde eilandbewoner" (1967) he illustrated. He was married to painter and photographer Mies de Roos (1934-2008). Since the 1960s, he worked in a studio in the garden of Aldo and Hannie van Eyck in Loenen aan de Vecht. Hillenius died at the age of 65 when he was hit by a delivery van while riding his bicycle.

This Amsterdam artist received various awards, including the Henriëtte Roland Holst Prize, two Talens Prizes, the Van Collum Prize, the Jeane Bieruma Oosting Prize, and royal grants and travel scholarships. Besides his free work, he also worked on numerous commissions: monumental works, including large canvases for the embassy in Paramaribo, the courthouse in Groningen, and eight panels for the Wibaut sports hall. Private individuals, companies, and museums also have his works in their collections. In addition to paintings, he created drawings, watercolors, and graphics. During his lifetime, Jaap Hillenius was represented by Cora de Vries of the gallery 'Collection d'Art'.
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