Drie Huizer vrouwen
The Van Abbemuseum Collection consists of over 2800 artworks. We publish texts and images on an ongoing basis, but this record is currently in the process of being documented.
This painting by the Dutch artist Leo Gestel shows three women dressed in the traditional costume of Huizen. They are seated next to each other and take up nearly the whole space. The harbour is visible in the background, as well as some cattle in the top right-hand corner. The women are of different ages and the woman on the right is the youngest. She is gazing out of the picture in a dreamy way and her hands are slightly raised. The woman on the left is middle aged. She looks at the viewer with a sad and defeated expression. Her hands rest on her lap. There is an old woman in the middle. She has sharp features and her right hand clasps a walking stick and an umbrella. She also gazes out from the picture. Gestel used restrained colours in this work. The white caps of the women draw the attention and emphasise their faces, and it is particularly in the faces and hands that Gestel used a sharp contrast between light and dark. The paint has been applied dry and with coarse brushstrokes.
When he travelled to Paris, Gestel came into contact with new movements in art such as Pointillism, Fauvism and Cubism and he experimented with these styles. Although his paintings always remained figurative, they were increasingly removed from reality. Gestel believed that nature cannot be copied and that every representation of it is an individual one. In 1911 he went to paint in Bergen in North Holland for the first time, where other artists were also working, particularly in the Expressionist style. They are sometimes referred to as the “Bergen School”. In 1921 Gestel had a house built in Bergen. In the mid-1920s he spent quite a lot of time in Flanders where he was influenced by the French Expressionists and his work acquired a darker coloration. There were troubling periods in his personal life and he suffered serious breakdowns several times.
'Three Women from Huizen' is more traditional than much of his earlier work. Nevertheless, it reveals the influence of various new art movements from the first quarter of the 20th century. The division of light and dark in the faces and hands of the women leads to almost geometrical forms as in Cubism. His subject, simple “people” and their everyday lives, corresponds to that of the Flemish Expressionists and his application of materials is also characteristic of the Expressionist approach.
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