Johan Marinus de Vries (1892-1982). Symbolic Realism13 March 2018 till 24 June 2018
The frequent visitor to the Katwijk Museum will know of the imposing works of the artist Johan de Vries. The works are entitled Kee, also known as The Oracle, and Arentje. They are studies which one cannot really miss: the monumental portraits of these dames are extremely ‘present’, impressive in style and size. The artist called his own work ‘Painfully detailed realism’: Director Wurfbain of the Lakenhal Museum in Leiden described de Vries’ work saying ‘ In his best work, in a pure realistic style, he wants to illustrate his ideas about the meaning of life’.
Johan de Vries lived in Katwijk from 1927 to 1930, moving after this to Wassenaar. He trained as an ornamental painter and admired the work of Vincent van Gogh from early on. Through this he learnt about his ‘inner man’. It was the music of Wagner’s Parsifal that stimulated the young artist with visions of unimaginable strength and clarity: he was also intensely interested in philosophy. Through these influences De Vries orientated himself more to the ‘ inner mind’ rather than to the visual reality. He illustrated this with vivid realism with a strong symbolic undertone.
The work that he produced from 1920 to 1937 was well received by authoritative art critics and was hung in many galleries throughout the country. Landscapes and still-lives also formed part of his broad oeuvre. But he also created confronting portraits that seemed to accentuate the fragility of life or more exactly it’s absurdity. The second World War became a dividing line in the career of Johan de Vries. Although he did not exhibit between 1937 and 1946, he did continue to paint, paying among other things his dentist’s bills with paintings.
After the war his work sunk into oblivion. A lot of it was donated to the forunner of the State Collection of Cultural Heritage ( Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed, RCE). Since then it has been carefully stored in the depots in Rijswijk, for the future…but out of sight of the public.
But now, thanks to a generous loan of the RCE, it has been made possible for the Katwijk Museum to exhibit no less than 50 works of De Vries during the exhibition Johan de Vries ( 1892-1982 ). Symbolic realism, from the 13th March to 23 June 2018. In this way his work from Katwijk, according to some his best, is exhibited, while in addition this almost forgotten artist is once again given the stage that he earns.