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Longread — 1 Mar 2017 — Lieske Tibbe

Chris Beekman, Steam tram stop, 1918. Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.
Chris Beekman, Steam tram stop, 1918. Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.
Chris Beekman, Landscape with roads and sun, 1914 (litho). Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo. From: Ger Harmsen, Chris Beekman, An Artist's Life, 1887-1964, Nijmegen (1999).
Chris Beekman, Landscape with roads and sun, 1914 (litho). Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo. From: Ger Harmsen, Chris Beekman, An Artist's Life, 1887-1964, Nijmegen (1999).

Abstract

The career of Chris Beekman is far from one-dimensional. The variety of styles associated with the modern painter, ranging from his early darkly tinted and starkly outlined works made in the Haagse style, to his ventures into abstraction occurring between 1917 and 1920, to his return to figurative works in the 1920s and 30s, his stylistic multiplicity often contributes to the neglect of his role as a contributor to the Dutch avant-garde collective, DeStijl. A group often considered only in terms of its most zealous members, namely Theo van Doesburg and Piet Mondrian, Beekman’s contributions are from an art historical perspective often pushed to the periphery and informed by the assumption that abstraction was merely an experimental phase in his journey towards his later return to figurative painting. Yet rather than considering Beekman’s interest in De Stijl as an unsuccessful experiment on the path to a predetermined artistic endpoint, Lieske Tibbe illuminates in this essay the nature of Beekman’s involvement in the De Stijl group and the ways in which the artist’s engagement in this visual language manifested asa result of the political philosophies and various personal connections fostered within his venture into abstraction. The interpretations provided in this essay are the result of extensive research into the various versions of the publication “Strijdbare menselijkeheid” (Militant Humanity), a text by Ger Harmsen dedicated to Beekman’s involvement and reception as a De Stijl painter. Moreover, Tibbe’s essay elucidates the various political dimensions which can be read in Beekman’s oeuvre, including his long-standing interest in anarchism and Russian revolution-inspired fascination with communism, each speaking to a politicism spanning throughout the artist’s both abstract and figurative periods. In outlining these various new dimensions ofBeekman’s work through a detailed study of the artist’s stylistic shifts as wellas various personal correspondence, this essay casts light towards Chris Beekman’s often overlooked yet nonetheless highly significant interest in abstraction and the unique role he played in the aims of the De Stijl group.


The essay is only available in Dutch, see: CHRIS BEEKMAN (1887 - 1964) EN DE STIJL: AFVALLIG EN STRIJDBAAR