Sunday, March 7, 2010

The wanderer

The Dutch graphic artist Wijnand Otto Jan van Nieuwenkamp was born in Amsterdam in 1874. He is celebrated particularly for his scenes in Java, Bali, and Lombok, which show a subtle sensitivity to Indonesian culture. 

Wijnand van Nieuwenkamp, Arabische Viertel in Semarang auf Java
Etching, pre-1915

Having first travelled to Indonesia in 1898, W.O.J. van Nieuwenkamp made repeated visits to the area, including long trips to Bali in 1904, 1906-7, 1917-19, 1935 and 1937. Travelling on foot, on horseback, and by bike, Wijnand van Nieuwenkamp made an important record of Balinese art in drawings and prints, and books such as Bali en Lombok (1906-1910); he also gathered together a huge collection of Indonesian art and artefacts. 

Wijnand van Nieuwenkamp, Rhenen
Woodcut, 1911

Van Nieuwenkamp also depicted European landscapes, as in these three woodcuts of Rhenen in the Netherlands, Le Puy-en-Velay in southern France, and Mechelen in Belgium (Mecheln is the German spelling). In these European scenes he allows himself an Expressionist vigour (noticeable in the skies of Rhenen, or the waters of Mechelen), whereas the Indonesian subjects tend to be marked by a restrained realism and a respect for the aesthetic values of the local culture.

Wijnand van Nieuwenkamp, Le Puy in Velay (Südfrankreich)
Woodcut, pre-1915
Wijnand van Nieuwenkamp, Brücke in Mecheln
Woodcut, 1899

Although nicknamed "the Wanderer", after the name of his houseboat De Zwerver, Wijnand Otto Jan van Nieuwenkamp settled in the 1920s in the Villa Nieuwenkamp in Fiesole, just outside Florence, where he died in 1950.


Jane Librizzi said...

Was Nieuewenkamp the first European artist to visit Bali? At least among these works, there is something tranquil about the Java etching whereas the European images seem all about movment. In "Rhenen" the clouds are positively baroque.

Roxana said...

oh, i love that bridge... but it is also true i can't resist anything with a little expressionist touch :-)

Neil said...

Jane, I've seen him described as the first European artist in Bali, but it seems a bit unlikely given the dates. It's probably correct to say he was the first European artist to take Bali seriously, on its own terms. I haven't to be honest seen enough of his work to make sweeping judgments, but your feeling about tranquil Java, agitated Europe echoes my own. I think he really felt at home in Indonesia, especially in Bali. Though when he came back to Europe, he came back in style - if you google Villa Nieuwenkamp, you'll see the splendour he lived in in Fiesole,