top of page

Outsider art: Nocturnal "walks" by Hans Scholze (1933-1993)

"At the beginning of a new academic year, I have the peculiar inclination to investigate my new professors. Who are they, what is their specialization, and what have they written about? During such a routine investigation, I came across an online article titled "Better than Escher," written by Professor Jos ten Berge. Ten Berge specializes in outsider art and wrote about the outsider artist Hans Scholze. When I saw Scholze's work, I was immediately captivated by the repetitive consistency of the composition in his drawings. His works rarely appear on the market, but the wait was rewarded.

Hans Scholze, zonder titel
Hans Scholze (1933-1993), Untiteld, 1986, Indian inkt on paper, 43,5 x 39 cm. Price: € 2.200.

Hans Scholze

Hans Scholze (1933-1993) was born in Java. When he was nine years old, he was held in a boys' internment camp during the Japanese occupation of the Dutch East Indies. The suffering he witnessed there haunted him. After the war, the family moved to the Netherlands, where he pursued a degree in interior architecture at the Academy of Art and Industry (AKI) in Enschede. He worked at various architectural firms in Amsterdam until one day, Scholze started "walking." Yes, walking. That is how he described drawing.

In 1963, Scholze began walking for the first time: "I kept drawing until Sunday night, continuously. By then, most of the cardboard was filled with an indecipherable ink pattern. I hadn't used a drop, no alcohol. I wasn't overworked, not 'out of this world,' still approachable. I just looked with increasing amazement at the pen in my hand, drawing fine lines for hours, unpremeditated and uncontrolled..." This drawing would be called the Mother Drawing and was never completed. Scholze drew figures, symbols, and lines across the entire paper. The patterns emerged unconsciously, like a form of automatic writing.

Outsider art: "You're in when you're out"

Scholze's works were created in isolation, driven by an inner compulsion and without commercial intent. Apart from a few exceptions, such as the exhibition at the Quatrième Biennale de Paris in 1969 and the Musée d'Art Moderne in Paris in 1965, he kept himself distant from the art market. Furthermore, his works do not align with a specific artistic movement. These aspects make Hans Scholze an outsider artist.

For Scholze, drawing was an escape but also a pleasure. He usually started in a corner, drawing random patterns, the leitmotif or heart of the drawing. When a leitmotif pleased Scholze, he began multiplying the pattern in the opposite corner until the paper was filled. During the development of this pattern, he introduced obstacles to make it more challenging for himself. He could work on a single drawing for weeks or months.

Bubb Kuyper Auction: Provenance

A year later, in May 2021, I visited the preview days of Bubb Kuyper in Haarlem. As I arrived on the attic floor, my eyes immediately fell on five drawings that I recognized: Hans Scholze. The drawings originated from the collection of Betty van Garrel (1939-2020). Van Garrel was an art journalist for publications such as De Haagse Post and NRC Handelsblad and co-authored the book Blessed are the Cross-eyed with Herman Pieter de Boer.

Provenance, the origin of an object, is increasingly considered important in the art world. A (complete) provenance tells us something about the art historical value and authenticity of an object. Forgeries have little or no history, and stolen art can be detected through provenance research. Betty van Garrel collaborated with Scholze and obtained the drawings firsthand, which is something that dealers (and collectors) greatly appreciate.

I managed to acquire three out of the five drawings: one colored watercolor and two Indian ink drawings. Scholze's black and white drawings are usually the most highly valued, as experts believe that is where his strength lies. It was only after picking up the drawings that I gathered literature on Scholze to better understand his body of work. To my surprise, two of the drawings were featured in the book The Field Has Eyes: Hans Scholze 1933-1993. One of the untitled drawings is a labyrinth from 1986 consisting of two lines. In the top right corner, there is an isolated square measuring one by one, the leitmotif, and the drawing is constructed from a second line originating from the bottom right. Using a magnifying glass, Scholze spent weeks filling the paper space with Indian ink. It has something compulsive and oppressive, yet the aesthetics of repetition make it appealing.

Jos ten Berge assigned his students the task of going for a walk themselves. At first glance, this may not seem difficult, but maintaining a continuous line and working at a meticulous level without losing sight of the bigger picture is more challenging than it appears. And to think that Scholze usually began his walks after midnight..."


bottom of page