Wim de Haan


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Wim de Haan (Amsterdam1913 – Amsterdam 1967)

Born in Amsterdam, De Haan grows up in Haarlem. In 1937 he is

sent out to Indonesia by a commercial company. There he stays

until 1942. In 1942 he is forced to work on the Birma

railway asa Japanese POW. He survives the labour camp by the skin of his

teeth, returning to Holland in 1946. Over the next few years he

engrosses himself in the study of philosophy, psychology and

social sciences. In 1953 he decidesto devote himself entirely

to drawing and painting. In his earliestworks he still draws and

paints quite heavily on themes andmotifs that have strong links with

pre-war Surrealism, but soonthe work begins to take on an

Abstract-Expressionist character, with the drawings developing

quite separately from the paintings.

His drawings are dominated by expressive linear structures, in

which symbols – some more insightful than others – can be recog-

nised. He continually explores the possibilities of pen, brushes,

ink and paper. The free use of line becomes a trademark of his

drawing style. The ‘lyrical-abstract’ paintings he produces at this

stage are characterised by abstract signs, and blots of colour with

blurry edges. Within a year he begins to mix ash, sand and other

materials into his paints. For a while his work develops parallel to

that of his friend Jaap Wagemaker. Both artists are members of

the Liga Nieuw Beelden (League of the New Image) group.

Constantly in search of new possibilities, De Haan takes himself

in a different direction in 1957. He allows the two-dimensional

surface to be broken up by means of cut-outs and areas that

protrude and recede from the surface. In addition, he adds all

kinds of ‘objets trouvés’. In 1958 he has his first show at Gallery

’t Venster in Rotterdam. From 1960 onwards De Haan exhibits

fairly regularly in London as well as in Cambridge, Lyon,

Frankfurt and elsewhere. In the 1960s he joins two artists’

groups, Europa and Oekwa, with whom he shows in Holland,

Germany and Belgium. His freestanding objects, dating from after

1962, bring out his interest in magic and mysticism even more

clearly than his earlier work. Wim de Haan died in Amsterdam in

1967. A memorial show at the Grosvenor Gallery in London is

held in the same year, followed in 1975 by a large retrospective

exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.