This summer the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag presents a major retrospective of the oeuvre of Haarlem painter Kees Verwey (1900 –1995) superintended by guest curator Rudi Fuchs. Ten years after the artist’s death, all aspects of his oeuvre will be on display in the museum: still lifes, portraits, watercolours and Verwey’s imposing studio paintings. Many works will be drawn from the collection managed by the Kees Verwey Foundation and have never previously been exhibited.
Kees Verwey grew up among the artistic intelligentsia of Haarlem; at an early age he was familiar with the collection of paintings owned by his uncle, poet Albert Verwey, and via another uncle, architect H.P. Berlage, he met artists like Jan Toorop and Richard Roland Holst. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that he quickly decided to become an artist and attended various art schools, where his tutors included Samuel Jesserun de Mesquita. Eventually, however, he chose to study under Haarlem-based painter H.F. Boot. Verwey was 33 when he had his first exhibitions in Haarlem and The Hague. A mere three years later, the Gemeentemuseum was already buying his work. As a result, his oil paintings are well-represented in the museum’s collection.
It is a well-known fact that Verwey rarely ventured outside Haarlem, and indeed preferred not to leave his studio. In 1980, he himself said, “It is by the very limitation of the space to which one restricts oneself that one gains access to those regions which lie deeper (…) So a bowl, a jug or an egg can become (…) an unimaginable source of beauty.” Even so, Verwey was always well aware of current trends in contemporary art. He translated them into his own idiom but knew that he could not get away from the Dutch tradition of painting, with its emphasis on still lifes and landscapes and the technical mastery of Rembrandt and Vermeer. Within that tradition, Verwey proved a past master, conspicuous for his fabulous technique and unwavering concentration on his own universe.
The exhibition will also include items by Verweys contemporaries like Nanninga and Ouborg, and his examples: Isaac Israels, Breitner, Floris Verster and Willem Witsen. In addition, since literature was always a major source of inspiration for Verwey (who, for example, paid homage to poet Antony Kok – co-founder of De Stijl – by producing thirty portraits of him in the space of a single year), it will look at the great men of letters whom Verwey admired, including Lodewijk van Deyssel, Adriaan Roland Holst and Harry Mulisch. Visitors will also be able to watch a film featuring Rudi Fuchs and Max van Rooy talking about the artist plus archive footage of Kees Verwey himself. The Gemeentemuseum’s last major exhibition devoted to Kees Verwey was held in 1990. The authors of the catalogue on that occasion have been asked to consider Verwey’s oeuvre once again in a book to be published by Waanders. (Authors Rudi Fuchs and Max van Rooy, € 29.95.)
The Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem is also exhibiting work by Kees Verwey this summer, focusing on his portraits of women. See alo http://www.dehallen.com/