Two early Monotypes by Zero artist Jan Schoonhoven in the Julie van der Veen archive in southern France
Jan Schoonhoven, Three frivolous fats, 1949, lithografie, 23x31 cm.
Jan Schoonhoven, Time fish, 1949, lithografie, 22x30 cm.
"A few months ago I got in touch with the Dutch-French couple Herman and Narcisse Vollenbroek, the administrators of the Julie van der Veen archive in the south of France. The archive consists of a hundred paintings, sketchbooks, graphic artworks and the correspondence between Van der Veen and her mother. In this voluminous archive, the couple found two lithographs by Jan Schoonhoven that they could not place properly in his oeuvre. These prints were not mentioned in recent literature and similar artworks could not be found online. So they asked me to investigate the case.
Julie van der Veen (1903-1997) came from a wealthy family which enabled her to travel and paint large parts of her life. Van der Veen was born on Java in 1903, but moved with her parents to The Hague in 1908. There she studied at the Academy of Fine Arts. In Paris, in the early 1930s, she was made aware of André Lhote's lectures by an acquaintance and decided to take lessons. She stayed alternately in the South of France, Paris and The Hague. Just after the Second World War, Van der Veen joined the Haagse Kunstkring, an artists' association, where she exhibited several times. There she became friends with Jan Schoonhoven. Little is known about the contact between Schoonhoven and Van der Veen, but the two prints by Schoonhoven that appear in her estate are a sign that the two knew each other.
Jan Schoonhoven (1914-1994) is one of the most important Dutch representatives of the Zero movement. In the 1960s he made his breakthrough with the well-known monochrome reliefs, made of papier-mâché, paper and cardboard. Zero was a response to the emotional and naive tendencies in art, as seen in the Cobra movement and abstract expressionism. Schoonhoven wanted to make objective art with everyday materials, stripped of emotion. Even in the formal titles of his reliefs, such as R 70-58, his abstract thinking is apparent.
The two prints from the archive are from before Schoonhoven's Zero period. Both lithographs are signed in the plate JJS '49 and annotated on the back: Time fish and Three frivolous fats. These titles show a less strict Schoonhoven. The distorted fish are armed with clock hands and remind me most of Dali. The Three frivolous fats are dancing with their angular bodies next to each other. Here Schoonhoven has treated the print with sandpaper, which gives the figures an almost archaic appearance.
Herman and Narcisse Vollenbroek decided to visit me in Haarlem and to give me the two prints for safekeeping. I contacted Ron Koster, a Haarlem art advisor and colleague who specializes in modern and abstract art. His area of interest: Zero and minimal art. He was surprised to see these works, for he too had not seen them before. That is why he decided to contact Antoon Melissen, an eminent expert on Schoonhoven's oeuvre.
Melissen is responsible for the catalog raisonné of Schoonhoven's unique artworks. He was also not familiar with the two prints, although he did know a similar composition with time fish and frivolous fats. Koster and Melissen soon came to the conclusion that they were not the right persons to assess these artworks. Koster had one last idea: Camillo Rigo.
As co-author of Jan Schoonhoven: Editions (2016), Rigo is the specialist in the field of Schoonhoven's prints. He could tell us that the works in question are most likely monotypes. The word says it all: a monoprint is a print of which only one print has been made. These prints were never printed in edition. It is known that Schoonhoven gave such prints as gifts to friends and acquaintances. Julie van der Veen did the same with her graphic work. Perhaps they were part of an artistic exchange, a friendly gift or a return for a favor? Unfortunately, the letters in the Julie van der Veen archive do not provide an answer, although this is still under investigation.
The two lithographs are therefore an art-historical curiosity, an experiment by Schoonhoven. In that capacity they are not included in the next edition of Jan Schoonhoven: Editions. Simply because it is not an official edition. However, the images are included in Camillo Rigo's personal archive. Nevertheless, they are two special works of art that should not be missing in the collection of a fanatic Schoonhoven collector." -
The artworks are for sale. Price: 1.750,- each.