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    Jan Sluijters (1881 - 1957) - Suburbs of Amsterdam

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    Artist: Jan Sluijters (1881 – 1957)

    Title: Suburbs of Amsterdam

    Signature: Monogram and dated lower left JS 07

    Material: Oil on canvas

    Measurements: 42 x 33,5 cm

    Provenance: Private collection Johannes Fredericus Samuel Esser, Amsterdam; Christie’s (Amsterdam) 1991-12-11; Collection Pronk Utrecht; ca. 1992; Dutch private collection



    Jan Sluijters’ work is considered to be of great importance to Dutch art history. He played a pioneering role in the young avant-garde, which also included artists such as Piet Mondriaan and Leo Gestel. From his time at the academy until shortly after the First World War, Sluijters experimented frequently and adopted styles such as luminism, fauvism, cubism and expressionism. After this he gained fame as a painter of portraits, nudes, flower still lifes and domestic scenes in a moderate expressionist style.

    As befits a modern artist at the beginning of the twentieth century, Sluijters made a trip with Leo Gestel in January 1904 to Belgium and France, where they visited various museums. In that year, Sluijters won the prestigious Prix de Rome with a large academic painting.

    With the scholarship he won, Sluijters traveled to Italy and Spain in early 1905. From that moment on, he said, ‘considering that mysterious question of “beauty” and “the essence and purpose of art”. Mimic reality as faithfully as possible became irrelevant to him and his attention increasingly focused on the effect of the sunlight and the people on the street. In 1906 Sluijters left Spain early to return to Paris. This enabled him to visit the Salon des Indépendants just in time, where Kees van Dongen’s paintings of Parisian nightlife could be seen. At that time, Paris was the center of the art world and also the first city where modern electric light was used on a large scale. Inspired by the work of Van Dongen, Sluijters started his own search in Paris for a visual language with which he could express his impressions of modern city life. Café de Nuit -Café Olympia was the first large canvas that Sluijters made in Paris. Here, the effective new electric light is the radiant centerpiece.

    Sluijters’ stay in Paris in 1906 had brought about an enormous development in his work. In turn, his paintings and drawings gave an impulse to modern art in the Netherlands by incorporating contemporary French art. His early works appear to have been an important engine for the emergence of luminism and thus for the breakthrough of modernism in Holland.

    In the years 1907-1911, Sluijters painted more and more outdoors, en plein air. In this period Sluijters made his most famous and most outspoken luministic landscapes of which Suburbs of Amsterdam painted in 1907 is a perfect example. In 1907 Sluijters focused on the area around Amsterdam, where he lived from March 1907. He often opted for a ‘French’ inspired palette with the shades of blue, pink and purple, as can also be seen in this canvas.

    Sluijters incorporated the dynamic brushwork and unmixed colours, which he had previously seen in the work of Vincent van Gogh and the Parisian neo-impressionists and Fauvists, into his own expressive visual language. This way of painting that Sluijters developed is known as luminism and in 1907 he was seen as the most important representative of luminism. Color and shape were given a larger, more independent role, and the perception of the light was central. In the same year he finished his most famous painting Bal Tabarin which he started in Paris in 1906 and finished in the summer of 1907 in Amsterdam.

    In the years 1907-1910 he came to an intensified form of pointillism, in which his aim was not only to reproduce a vibrating sensation of light, but also to express the imperceptible: the personal emotional experience. Suburbs of Amsterdam shows this expressive form of pointillism with dynamic brightly colored dots and stripes.


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