In Memoriam Herman Scholten
12 Jul 2013

Two works by Herman Scholten. Left: 'Op en neer', 1970 (gallery view, exhibition The Bauhaus and the Netherlands, Stedelijk Museum, 2012). Right: 'Prélude', 1958. Photos: Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.
Two works by Herman Scholten. Left: 'Op en neer', 1970 (gallery view, exhibition The Bauhaus and the Netherlands, Stedelijk Museum, 2012). Right: 'Prélude', 1958. Photos: Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam.

It is with profound sadness that the Stedelijk Museum learned of the passing of Herman Scholten (1932-2013) on July 8. Herman Scholten, and his wife Desirée Scholten-van de Rivière (1920-1987), were regarded as important figures in innovative Dutch and international textile art.

When talking about his work to Benno Premsela, designer and champion of the applied arts, Herman Scholten said: “I am a weaver and in that weaving, I am primarily concerned with the structure, building towards a larger thing that is built up of small elements. And then the visual elements and their emotional aspects. (…) It excites me to do as much as possible with very little.” In fiber art, Scholten found a way of expressing his artistic vision. The art that he saw during his many visits to the Stedelijk Museum was a key source of inspiration for his work.

Scholten studied weaving at the Instituut voor Kunstnijverheidsonderwijs in Amsterdam (now the Gerrit Rietveld Academie). It was here that he met his future wife with whom, after graduating, he established a weaving studio in Amsterdam in 1954. Later, they settled in Baambrugge, in a house with a studio designed for them by Gerrit Rietveld, an acquaintance from their days at the IvKNO.

In 1958, after completing several monumental commissions, Scholten created his first autonomous wall hanging, 'Prélude' (now in the collection of the Stedelijk). His textile art gradually achieved wider recognition through his participation in the textile biennales of Lausanne. In 1969, one of his textile works was presented at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, in the exhibition 'Wall Hangings'.

Where Scholten’s early work chiefly featured broad bands and a restrained use of color, his later work was informed by a brighter palette and freer forms. Scholten had abandoned the loom in favor of a more freehand approach, setting out the contours of the wall hanging with wall-mounted nails. This allowed Scholten the freedom of working beyond the confines of a rectangular shape.

In the 70s, his career further developed with a prestigious commission for the Provinciehuis Noord-Brabant and a solo exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum. Scholten had a close relationship with the Stedelijk, particularly with the curators Wil Bertheux and Liesbeth Crommelin. After numerous group exhibitions at various venues, in 1977, a duo exhibition was mounted with Desirée Scholten at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. His work was presented in diverse traveling survey exhibitions in America, and in the accompanying catalogues that are now considered to be standard works. In addition to his artistic practice, Herman Scholten taught at the Textile Department of the Gerrit Rietveld Academie from 1971 to 1989, where he later became department head.

Although interest in fiber art began to wane in the 80s, Herman Scholten was given another solo exhibition at the Stedelijk in 1991. 'Herman Scholten – Blokken, Wolken, Landschappen, Stillevens' explored the more lyrical, serene and painterly side of his work. In 1998, Scholten was awarded the Oeuvre Prize of the Fonds voor Beeldende Kunsten, Vormgeving en Bouwkunst in recognition of his contribution to textile art.

Fiber art is currently enjoying a resurgence of interest. The Mondriaanhuis in Amersfoort recently dedicated an exhibition to the work of Herman Scholten. After the reopening of the Stedelijk Museum in 2012, his wall hanging 'Op en neer' was presented alongside work by his wife Desirée Scholten, his teacher Kitty van der Mijll Dekker and his fellow tutor Margot Rolf. We are so glad that he was able to see it. The Stedelijk will miss him, and wishes his family and loved ones strength at this difficult time.

Author: Victoria Anastasyadis