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Aat Veldhoen

(born 1934 in Amsterdam)

Portrait of Neighbour in Curlers. Etching on bright white wove paper. 34.4 x 27.7 cm. Signed. (19)60. Vroom 60–14; Boogert-de Heer 35. 

The painter, draughtsman and printmaker Arie (“Aat”) Veldhoen was born in Amsterdam in 1934. His talent blossomed early and at the age of just fourteen he began his artistic training at an art school in Amsterdam, which he left after four years without completing the course to become an independent artist. Veldhoen bought his first etching press in 1956. As an etcher he was basically self-taught. His preoccupation with this medium was an almost inevitable result of his activities as a draughtsman, which he pursued with great intensity and astonishing talent. Between 1957 and 1967 Veldhoen produced an extensive oeuvre of some four hundred prints, comprising landscapes, still lifes, portraits, self-portraits and erotic themes. Veldhoen is a traditional artist in the best sense of the word. He felt the urge to follow in the footsteps of his great predecessors, especially Rembrandt, whose almost magical capacity for synthesis and capturing of the essential has always been a defining model for him. Nevertheless, his art never makes an antiquated impression, being astonishingly idiosyncratic, powerful and emotionally charged. So it came as something of a surprise when this highly gifted young artist, who apparently could do anything with ease, gave up printmaking altogether in 1967 after a period of feverish creativity lasting just over a decade (see B. van den Boogert, Ed de Heer, Veldhoen Het grafische werk, Museum het Rembrandthuis, Amsterdam 2001).

The Portrait of Neighbour in Curlers from 1960 is one of Veldhoen’s finest works. The title is indicative of his approach to art. Veldhoen did portraits of ordinary people whom he found in his immediate surroundings. At the time in question the artist lived in the popular district of De Jordaan in the historic heart of Amsterdam and, like his great colleague Rembrandt, sought out his models in the street. It was often women whom the self-confessed lecher invited to his studio to pose for him dressed or undressed … girlfriends, fleeting acquaintances, the woman next door or the wife of the greengrocer round the corner. The present portrait exudes creative concentration and intimacy. The artist is very economical with the means at his disposal, the upper part of the woman’s body being hinted at with just a few lines. The same applies to the rendering of the face, which has something almost mask-like and distant about it. The dark patches of the eyes and mouth enliven the pale face which – despite the curlers – possesses a remarkable presence. It is the dignity of the ordinary person that Veldhoen, more than three hundred years after Rembrandt, has captured in a striking and sensitive manner.

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