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'Louis Soonius, a man 'averse to all -isms', in: Magazine the Red Herring

The Hague painter Louis Soonius (1883-1956) is often remembered as a painter of idyllic beach scenes with donkeys and playing children against the backdrop of the Kurhaus in Scheveningen. The recently published essay 'Louis Soonius, a man 'averse to all -isms', published in the magazine de Rode Haring (Red Herring), sheds light on the versatility of his work and life. Soonius' art career began at the Haagsche Plateelbakkerij Rozenburg, where he worked as a master painter, painting tiles, plates, and tile panels, among other things. His early drawings, dating from 1900, show his fascination with the transience of The Hague environment, which at that time was undergoing rapid changes. His participation in the Royal Subsidy for Free Painting (Koninklijke Subsidie voor Vrije Schilderkunst) in 1913, where he won a multi-year grant, confirms his artistic ambitions as a painter.

Louis Soonius, Zelfportret, 1918
Louis Soonius, Self portrait, 1918, 26,5 x 37,5 cm, canvas on panel.

In addition to his work at Rozenburg, Soonius was active as a draftsman and illustrator. His drawings show both the city life of The Hague and the rural environment, with a preference for capturing historical buildings and locations that were about to disappear. His interest in the Hague School is clearly visible in his paintings, although he never made literal copies of their work.

Louis Soonius had a strong aversion to modern art movements, such as cubism and surrealism, and continued to adhere to traditional techniques. He joined a small group of traditional artists from Friesland and broke with experimental colleagues such as Chris Beekman. His paintings show vibrant colors and an impressionistic depiction of scenes from everyday life. His body of work, consisting of an estimated 600-700 paintings, shows a wide range of subjects, including beach scenes, village views, interiors, and some portraits.

Although Soonius was a successful artist, he was financially affected by the economic downturn of the 1930s. He shared a house with his twin sister Margaretha to save costs, as there was little work for artists. Despite these challenges, he continued to exhibit and participate in exhibitions. Nevertheless, he also achieved some successes. For example, his childhood drawings of The Hague and its surroundings were purchased in 1933 by the Vereeniging Monumentenzorg and the Municipal Archive of The Hague, and in 1939 he was commissioned to create a portrait of Queen Wilhelmina for the Bataafsche Petroleum Maatschappij.

Throughout his career, Soonius remained true to his own style, despite the changing art trends around him. His work, although often associated with the Hague School, shows a unique interpretation of everyday life and the transient beauty of his surroundings. His ability to capture both city life and the rural landscape attests to his skill as an artist. Louis Soonius is remembered as an artist who held onto tradition in a time of rapid changes in the art world.


Bob Scholte (1998) completed his bachelor's degree in History and Art History at Leiden University, after which he completed the Master's program in Art, Market, and Connoisseurship at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. For his master's thesis, he researched the life and work of Louis Soonius, presented here in a compact essay form, the first publication about this painter. In his professional life, he works as an art dealer and columnist. Would you like to read the entire article? Order your copy (the edition of October 9, 2023.) at de Rode Haring.


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