Jan Mankes (Meppel 1889 – Eerbeek 1920) attended HBS for a number of years, but did not excel there. After his father, a tax official, was transferred to Delft, he quit his studies. Mankes became an apprentice in the studio of the glass burner and glazier J.L. Schouten in Delft. In his spare time he received drawing lessons from his colleague Herman Veldhuis. He also took classes at the evening academy in The Hague.
From 1908 Jan Mankes worked as a free artist. In the beginning, Mankes mainly painted dark birds in dark tones, later also light-colored, mostly white animals such as roosters and rabbits. In 1909 the family moved to De Knijpe near Heerenveen. This is where the important works of art 'Dead snipe' (1910), 'Little owl on branch' (1911) and 'Self-portrait with owl' (1911) were created. Nature, and especially birds, became a popular subject. His patron, the art collector and cigar manufacturer Aloysius Pauwels, sent him special birds so that Mankes could paint these animals.
Jan Mankes' realistic paintings are small in size, often no larger than an A4 sheet. His work is characterized by great sobriety and tranquility. It is dreamy, vaguely symbolistic and above all vulnerable. From 1912, when he bought an etching press, he also made prints and woodcuts under the influence of the Japanese artist Hokusai.
Mankes always sought his subjects close to home; he consciously chose that proximity. His works are therefore a tribute to the Dutch landscape that has changed so drastically. The painting of the Woudsterweg where he lived with his parents for six years was made there and is considered one of his masterpieces.
Although Jan Mankes lived in a remote area, he remained well informed of new developments. He came into contact with the Reinleven movement and attended meetings of the socialist party of Domela Nieuwenhuis. Anna Zernike, the first female Mennonite minister in the Netherlands, became his wife in 1915. After their marriage they lived in The Hague for some time. He led a secluded life, as “quiet” as his work.
At the beginning of the 20th century, artists moved en masse in a different direction and all kinds of new movements emerged, such as expressionism, cubism and futurism. But where his contemporaries look forward, Mankes prefers to look back. He draws his inspiration from Impressionism and the Renaissance. His self-portraits, bird paintings and landscapes are inimitable in their combination of precision and poetry.
His work is characterized by balanced compositions and subdued use of color, as well as a barely visible brushstroke that leads to a tranquility with an austerity that was characteristic of . It is dreamy, vaguely symbolistic and above all vulnerable. Sometimes he would run the sandpaper over his paintings again for a vintage look. The color red provides depth and extra accents in many paintings. His work can be found in Museum Arnhem and the MORE museum in Gorssel.