Simeon Nijenhuis (1969, Zaandijk, The Netherlands) graduated in 1993 in fine arts, drawing, and graphics at Academy Minerva in Groningen. He became known for his series of large etchings of cathedrals. From 1999 on he concentrated on painting in oils.
A still life of a Chinese dish with grapes is on display in the studio of Simeon Nijenhuis. ‘They are one of my favorite subjects; grapes are so beautifully delicate and transparent.’
Everywhere on display in the studio are still lifes. ‘Even though to some I will not admit, I’m rather impulsive. If I have an idea, I immediately want to know what it looks like. So I’m often working on ten paintings at the same time.’
‘I started painting around ’99. That was somewhat surprising fore people who knew me from my etchings. But I’m fairly cyclically inclined: something keeps me non-stop working for a time, then there is usually something new. When I was doing my etching of the sea, I visited the exhibition ‘Praise of maritime navigation’ in (museum) Boymans and there the idea occurred to go painting. For I realized that with a subject like the sea, I did not get there with the linear approach of etching. Those soft gray tones of the 17th century Sea painters I found incredible. That was what I wanted!’
…those soft gray tones of the 17th century Sea painters I found incredible…
‘At first I tried with color etchings, but that was a tragedy. At the academy, I never had painted or concerned myself about color. And color is a complicated thing, not something you can do right away. Yet I found that you occasionally have to change course drastically if you want to stay fresh and inspired. After years of having done etchings I was becoming faint of all that fussing and bustle of lines. I wanted a kind of calm in my work.’
‘At an opening in Utrecht someone once said to me: Your work is so vital and dynamic, almost aggressive. But in a few years you won’t make these things anymore. He was right. As you get older you once in a while want to create something within where is silence. This is possible with oil, because you can paint beautiful surfaces, that in addition to the dynamics, ensure calmness.’
‘What I first did was make some study. To Florence, Paris, New York. Watching the old masters. I frantically ran through the Louvre, to Van Gogh, Chardin, Corot. I sucked everything to me, especially color.’
‘When I actually started painting I knew one thing for sure: I would not be another neo-impressionist. I was aiming for the depths of the 17th-century masters. Many contemporary artists use colors to seduce immediately. A blue against a bright red. The Jan Cremer palette that is omnipresent. I love colors that bear a mystery. That soft color transitions of a painter like Claesz Heda move me tremendously. A good painting should evoke a mood for me.’
‘In the 20th century the painting became a concept, an illustration of an idea. What I want is a painting to become an experience again. A painting must ‘live’. touch your senses. If you look at a painting of chestnuts, you should be able to smell the autumn. To comply, I had to believe myself quite to my own standards. Hundreds of studies I made. Always you research something else. It was not just to get to master the technique, but also to develop a vision. So search topics, collect objects. Find what suits you. Only then will you get the magical mix between technology and vision.’
‘Actually, I’m a bit stuck in the still life. It was intended as a study, but I’ve gotten hooked. My work has changed dramatically: from the enormity of cathedrals to the intimacy of three grapes in a Chinese dish. But the reality is hugely fascinating; the color of yellowed pages, the shine of leather.’
‘But before you can make a painting that is truly spacious, there must flow a lot of water to the sea. What I learned gradually, is that certain laws in the painting can not relax on your boot. Precisely to express your own personality, you need to understand a few general rules. Often contemporary painters are too cocky, you see always the same uniformity. When I was at an exhibition of the Royal Grant, I looked through my eyelashes, and all I saw was brownish areas on the walls. While these painters were so busy to stop their ‘own’ me in their paintings. But if you go Terborch, Van Mieris and Vermeer, you get them yet easily apart. While they rely on the same schemes and themes. Fascinating isn’t it? In this way, Simeon Nijenhuis paintings evolve. I don’t care too much, do not specifically sail a course of uniqueness. I find it fun to get to work with themes that I encounter here and in painting. Painted Floris Verster a bowl in 1900, Dick Ket painted it in 1930, Jan van Tongeren in 1960, and I paint it now.’
‘That gives me a good feeling. Art is also a bit of folklore. For someone like me, born in ’69, to be original, is to ask for neurotic randomness. What you get is all kinds of far-fetched nonsense. We all love to be unique, but we are very similar. Art is in my mind about what unites us, not about what divides us.’
‘Now I’m painting in good stride. I get more and more momentum and spaciousness in my work. And I’m learning every day.’
Zaandijk, The Netherlands, August 1969
Academy for the Arts Minerva, Groningen, Netherlands, 1993
Academy for the Arts, Bergen, Norway, 1990
Solo, Galerie Wildevuur, Hooghalen
Art Zaanstad, Zaandam
Summer exposition, Intermedi-Art, St. Stevenskerk, Nijmegen
Solo, Galerie Wildevuur, Hooghalen
Solo, Peter Ter Braak Kunsthandel, Groningen
Summer Exposition, Intermedi-Art, St. Stevenskerk, Nijmegen
Duo exhibition with Antoine Vincent, Galerie Wildevuur, Hooghalen
Verstand van smaak, Temporary Art Centre (TAC), Eindhoven
Duotentoonstelling met Sandra Kruisbrink, Intermedi-Art, Nijmegen
Het hedendaagse stilleven, Morren Galleries, Utrecht
Summer Exposition, Intermedi-Art, St. Stevenskerk, Nijmegen
‘Het hedendaagse stilleven’, Galerie Utrecht
‘Berend Groen Memorial: 12 x 12, Drents Museum, Assen
‘Kunstkamer’, Hereboerderij, Bronneger
De Hooghe Kamer, Hoogeveen
Zomertentoonstelling, Intermedi-Art, St. Stevenskerk, Nijmegen.
Summer Exposition, Intermedi-art, St. Stevenskerk, Nijmegen,
‘Realisten’, galerie De Vis, Harlingen
‘Verstand van smaak’, Stroomhuis, Eindhoven
Galerie Mebius, Noordhorn, wintersalon
Study travels to Florence, Italy, and Paris, France
Exposisitie St. Stevenskerk, Nijmegen (groepstentoonstelling)
Basisstipendium Fonds BKVB, Amsterdam
Stichting Beeldende Kunst, Haarlem (Solo)
Genootschap Kunstliefde, Utrecht (Solo)
Gasunie, Groningen (Duotentoonstelling met Ger Eikendal)
De Boterhal, Hoorn (Duotentoonstelling met Jeroen Henneman)
Art Gallery Show, Groningen (Presentatie Galerie Wijk)
Schepenenzaal Stadhuis, Nijmegen
(Solo, i.v.m. Nijmegenprent ’96)
Grafiek Nu, Singer Museum Laren
Centrum voor beeldende kunst, Groningen (Solo)
Presentation stipendium Gemeente Groningen
Exhibition Kunstcentrum Zaanstad, Zaandam
Winner, Nederlandse Grafiekprijs
Confrontatie ’94, Gent (België)
Grafiek Nu, Amsterdam
Honorable mention, Javaanse Jongens Grafiekprijs
Exhibition Pulchri Studio, Den Haag
Work in collections
ABN AMRO Bank, ING Bank, Gasunie, Rijkshogeschool Groningen, Van Lanschot Bankiers, Rabobank, SBK Haarlem, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Citroën Nederland en diverse particuliere collecties
In the press
- NRC Handelsblad, 17-11-’94; “”Grafiek Nu” wijkt uit naar Nieuwe Kerk”
- Trouw, 18-11-’94, “Een stimulerende kijkorgie”
- Het Parool, 20-11-’94; “Zee van ruimte doet “Grafiek Nu” goed”
- Nieuwsblad van het Noorden, 14-11-’94; “Winnaar Grafiekprijs graag vrije jongen”
- Kunstbeeld, maart ’96, “Simeon Nijenhuis als kathedralenbouwer”
- Franeker Courant, 2-2-’96; “Onmogelijke kathedralen van Simeon Nijenhuis”
- Leeuwarder Courant, 10-2-’96; “Monumentale etsen Simeon Nijenhuis”
- De Gelderlander, 15-11-’96; “Juichend portaal Sint Stevenskerk”
- Noord-Hollands Dagblad, 25-11-’96; “Architectuur rode draad in expositie Henneman/Nijenhuis”
- Nieuwsblad van het Noorden, 28-12-’96; “De vergeten binding tussen Natuur en Architectuur in serie etsen”
- Utrechts Nieuwsblad, 19-3-’97; “Ontzagwekkende kathedralen en Middeleeuwse miniaturen”
- Weekblad CARP, 2002: “De schoonheid van een tros druiven”, interview met Simeon Nijenhuis en Reinout Krajenbrink
Work in catalogs
Catalogus Javaanse Jongens Grafiekprijs
Catalogus Grafiek Nu
Catalogus Confrontatie ’94
Catalogus Grafiek Nu
Overzicht “Simeon Nijenhuis, etsen”
Catalogus Gasunie “Bovengronds Kunstbezit”
Catalogus Collectie Intermedi-art Nijmegen
Ontwerp vloertegels voor de “Herenboerderij, 1998”
Martiniprent 2002, in opdracht van Ann’s Art Groningen, ets der-Aa kerk
My top 10 painters
Not an original choice of course, almost every painter is interested in Vermeer. He is the first early (17th century) painter whose compositions are really considered beautiful. Moreover, Vermeer’s color is so beautiful, as one enters the Rijksmuseum room where ‘The Woman Reading a Letter’ hangs, one immediately notices the incredible brightness.
2. Dick Ket
Any decent postwar painter has been given a big tick from Ket. That weird obsession with details, the foreign private atmosphere, the melancholy. It probably has to do with his illness and early death, that his paintings have something special.
3. Claeszoon Heda
Pure atmosphere. Beautiful, which monochrome colors that complement each other so softly. Also a painter with a very efficient touch. You can see that the paintings cost him little effort.
This French growler (he was a chagrin) has gradually become one of my favorite painters. Painting such a world with a few brushes, great. Nowhere exaggerating, always deliquescent surprisingly easy. Contemporary French painter Antoine Vincent is one of the few contemporary painters who sometimes comes close.
Rural, simple still lifes did this painter create. No one can paint a white egg as Zurburan did. Cees Nooteboom is also Zurburanfan and has written a very nice book about him that I can recommend to anyone.
6. Camille Corot
Really 19th century, when I’m in France and I see the Limousin, I always think of Corot. That silvery light. Try to paint so much light with so little color. Truly a master of grays.
7. Siméon Chardin
Beautiful name. This nonchalance of these paintings, while Chardin still worked laborious, it seems. The summary light, but Chardin also knows how to capture the drama of a shot hare beautifully.
8. Jan van Tongeren
I am very envious of this kind of quiet, deliberate painters. Strip tight are the still lifes of Van Tongeren. It’s time for a major museum presentation of his work. Very good material expression.
9. Raoul Hynckes
Of all the 20th-century painters Hynckes seems to paint the most from a theoretical program. Mortality and beauty are painted in a dramatic light. Hynckes stylizes beautifully. As with Helmantel, Hynckes’ affinity with the 17th-century artists is evident.
10. Balthasar van der Ast
Not even technically excellent, but so sweet and small. His shells and berries, small bowls and butterflies take you to a wonderful paradise.
Here is a quick Spring ’19 update.
My recent exposition at Wildevuur art gallery was a smashing success! Lots of visitors & sales.
From now on I will announce future expositions here well in advance so you don’t miss out on something awesome.
This spring & summer I will be outdoors plenty of time to work ‘en plein air’. I will also be working on a couple of paintings on assignment. Follow the most recent developments @ Facebook en Instagram.