THEODORUS WILLEM NIEUWENHUIS
Noord-Scharwoude 1866 - 1951 Hilversum
Wild Flowers, including Primrose, Common Fumitory, Purple Corydalis and Iris.
Watercolor; circa 1895-96. Watermark: initials AL with an oval band. Provenance: K. Citroen, the Netherlands; American private collection.
The Dutch designer Nieuwenhuis mentions in his autobiography the pleasure he took from working after the plants sent to him by the Landouw Hoogeschool at Wageningen. The use of the large leaves, in particular, shows the influence that the art of the Middle Ages and early Northern Renaissance had upon the artist. These early plant and flower studies were a potent source of inspiration for the young artist.
This art movement called De Nieuwe Kunst, that is, art made in the Netherlands between 1885 and 1910, is characterized by decorative images without using Renaissance central perspective. Here, the use of the black background as an enframement device for the large Iris as well as the sparkling colors show the assimilation of the German masters of the 16th century (Dürer, Cranach, Gessner, Weiditz, etc.) who worked with the same intense interest in details as had monks in earlier times and the local realism of Jan van Eyck and Rogier van der Weyden (cf. F. Koreny, Albrecht Dürer und die Tier-und Planzenstudien der Renaissance, München, 1985).
Notwithstanding the clear links between De Nieuwe Kunst and the English Arts and Crafts Movement – the extensive use of floral motifs for one – it would be incorrect to see the relationship as one of simple dependence. Nieuwenhuis’s precision and naturalism are not found in English Arts and Crafts plant and flower images which are more stylized.
Nieuwenhuis was one of the principal figures in De Nieuwe Kunst. He was a prolific and extremely successful graphic designer as well as a designer of furniture and interiors. He was also a gifted draftsman and colorist, as our watercolor demonstrates.
The Common Fumitory to the left of the Iris was used in a lithograph published in the periodical Vragen van de Dag (1897-98) (cf. Ritzema Bos plate XX). Other leaves from this series of watercolors are at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, a private collection in Boston, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
480 x 423 mm 18 7/8 x 16 11/16 inches
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