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Transcending Borders: Jan Mankes in New York

"There you are, riding in a taxi through New York with a precious custom-made suitcase. After an hour-long ride, I arrive at an estate filled with animals: chickens, goats, and cattle. The owner steps out of his house, inquires about the journey, and curiously points at the suitcase. Inside the suitcase lies Mother, a tiny oil painting by 'Holland's most tranquil painter,' Jan Mankes (1889-1920), created in 1911. He opens the suitcase, examines the painting, and was pleasantly surprised. I asked him if he already had a place in mind to hang it. "Of course I have!" he replied. Then a small room opens, filled with Jan Mankes' paintings. Exactly five were hanging on the wall. I had seen these works individually before, but never all together. The result was astonishing. "Thank you, Bob, I'm very happy with this new one. Now, go find me another one, will you?"

Jan Mankes, Moeder
Jan Mankes (1889-1920), Mother, 1911, oil on canvas on panel, 18,5 x 15cm. Sold.

Jan Mankes in New York

The past year has been dedicated to Jan Mankes. After I purchased a collection of Mankes' prints and displayed them on my website, I received an email from an American collector expressing his interest in Mankes' sensitive and tender works. He asked to be kept informed about the offerings in the Dutch market. He always felt like he was missing out and needed someone in the Netherlands who was ready and able to act quickly.

Jan Mankes' entire oeuvre consists of approximately 180 paintings, with at least half already in museum collections. Collectors who own works by Jan Mankes rarely sell, so perhaps one or, with luck, two paintings appear on the market each year. That's exactly what I wrote back to the American. But, I assured him, I would keep my eyes and ears open.

PAN Fair 2021

The search for Jan Mankes' paintings began last year at PAN, an art fair. While working for Tableau Fine Arts Magazine, I entered Ivo Bouwman's booth, an art dealer in The Hague specialized in French and Dutch art. In the corner of my eye, I saw the oil painting Lelieveld (ca. 1912) that had recently been exhibited at the Jan Mankes exhibition De werkelijkheid niet at Museum More. It was a beautiful dreamy work depicting a field of lilies at night. I inquired about the price and condition. On the subway ride home, I emailed the American about the painting. Within two minutes, I received a reply, and after some price negotiation, I closed the deal even before I got home. Things can happen quickly. It was clear: the American was not only a great admirer but also a serious customer with an insatiable desire for Jan Mankes.

To meet his needs, I reached out to various dealers and collectors, asking if they knew of any Jan Mankes paintings available. "Bob, what kind of question is this? These paintings never come on the market," was the rough response I usually received. But, less than a week later, I struck gold: Rose and liliy in a glass (1912). And two weeks later, another painting surfaced: Jug with heather (1911). And now, Mother (1911).

Jan Mankes, Roos en lelie in een glas
Jan Mankes (1889-1920), Rose and lily in a glass, 1912, oil on canvas, 21,8 x 18 cm, provenance: Van Beuningen Collection. Sold.

To New York

Normally, these paintings would be shipped by a specialized transport company. However, this time, the American collector was in a hurry. The painting needed to be in New York by June 12th. It was June 6th, and no transport company could guarantee delivery on time. So, I decided to book a flight and personally deliver the painting. I had a custom-made suitcase crafted and prepared the export documents, so I could smoothly pass through customs. Well, at least that's what I hoped. It took some time to explain at JFK Airport what a student was doing with such a valuable artwork, but after an hour or so, I was able to proceed.

And in ten years? The American intends to return his collection to the Netherlands. He, too, believes that Jan Mankes belongs nowhere else but in the Netherlands. It has been exactly a year now, and there are six paintings hanging in the Mankes room in New York. And who knows what paintings will surface this year."

Bob Scholte Fine Art is currently searching for drawings and paintings by Jan Mankes for various art collectors. If you own an artwork by Mankes and are considering selling, please don't hesitate to get in touch. We act as intermediaries between you and potential buyers, working together to determine a fair market price, ensuring a fast and efficient transaction.


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