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.
The print 'Blossom III' by Hendrik Nicolaas Werkman shows cacti. The large shapes were made using stencils and an ink roller; the small ones with a stamp. In some cases the ink is very transparent, but sometimes it was applied more thickly and in many places in various layers, sometimes also in different hues on top of each other, resulting in a rich range of colours. By mixing different colours together on the roller, or rolling colours partly over each other onto the paper, Werkman printed transitions of colour. In several places, the starting point of the roller is visible. To do the stamps, Werkman used printing materials such as a comma, a dash and the letter O. With these marks he created details in the representation in a simple and effective way; they form the skin and prickles of the cacti. In some cases, this is decorative, as in the garland of circles and dashes which passes around the cactus on the left to the cactus on the right.
From 1908, Werkman had his own printing press in Groningen, and in 1917 he started to paint in his free time. As a result of the lack of commissions, he was forced to close down his large printing press in 1923 and he continued with a small one. From that time he started his artistic experiments with the printing materials and techniques at his disposal. In his free time he actually exploited things which are considered failures in regular printing, such as ink which is not evenly distributed, or shifting images. Because of these sorts of coincidences it was not possible to print runs of the same work. Sometimes the techniques used in his print works, as he called them, were very complicated. Werkman said about this: “It is not possible to describe exactly how this is done because it is different every time.”
He was familiar with the international developments in the arts at the time. His own work was sometimes abstract and often contained typographical elements. In these cases it was related to Constructivism and De Stijl. Sometimes it was figurative and was influenced more by German Expressionism. He had come into contact with this movement via the association of artists De Ploeg. Because of the very personal range of colours that he used and the free manner in which Werkman showed the natural details of the cacti in his images, 'Blossom III' can also be called an Expressionist work.
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