News — 29 Jun 2021

More than 300 drawings by Nola Hatterman and 50 sketches by Armand Baag have been discovered in Baag’s forgotten storage unit in Amsterdam. The works of art had been hidden away for over 20 years. The unique discovery throws new light on the oeuvre of both artists and deepens insights into their artistic practice and working methods. A number of these works of art will make their first-ever public appearance in the exhibition Surinamese School at the Stedelijk Museum.

Nola Hatterman, Spelende kinderen, drawing/watercolor
Nola Hatterman, Spelende kinderen, drawing/watercolor
No title or year, attributed to Nola Hatterman.
No title or year, attributed to Nola Hatterman.

For the exhibition Surinamese School, guest curator Bart Krieger conducted art historical research in the archive of Armand Baag (1941-2001). Krieger’s research involved visiting a storage unit belonging to the Baag family where, in addition to the artist’s archive material, books and musical instruments, he stumbled upon hundreds of undiscovered drawings by the artist Nola Hatterman (1899-1984), and Baag. He not only uncovered Hatterman’s drawings, but the full administrative records of her art education programme. In 1953, Hatterman moved from Amsterdam to Suriname, to teach and paint. Given that Baag was Hatterman’s heir, finding her work in his storage unit was no surprise. Baag’s first art tutor was Hatterman, and he also taught at the academy of which she was director. The inheritance is not the only evidence of their close relationship. In 1984, Baag returned to Suriname to bury Hatterman and to see if Hatterman’s wish to set up a museum in her house in Brokopondo was realisable—the plans did not reach fruition.

The discovery yields significant insights into the work of both artists. Among the drawings are preliminary sketches that Krieger recognises as studies for fully-realised oil paintings, and knows in which collections they are located.

Among the find are four studies that focus on the December Murders. Two are executed in oil paint and are in private collections. Also found was a study by Hatterman for the history painting Attack on the Plantation (circa 1981). Interestingly, the sketch does not feature the prominent Kwakoe-like main figure that looks the viewer straight in the eye. Also discovered were sketches (circa 1934) of two different canvases that Hatterman entitled Jazz. One of the paintings has been lost; the other is in the collection of Museum Arnhem.

Untitled or year, watercolor, attributed to Nola Hatterman.
Untitled or year, watercolor, attributed to Nola Hatterman.
Armand Baag, sketch/preliminary study of Flight from the Plantation or Attack on the Plantation, 1981 or later
Armand Baag, sketch/preliminary study of Flight from the Plantation or Attack on the Plantation, 1981 or later

Rein Wolfs, director Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam: “The research carried out for the Surinamese School exhibition and the Hatterman monograph led to the exploration of new areas, and ultimately to the discovery of the drawings. This find underlines the importance of giving a platform to more women artists, and artists of colour, in order to expand and deepen the field of art historical research.

Surina Baag, artist and daughter of Armand Baag: “Besides expressing his 'Surinamese primal feeling' as a visual artist, my father was also a composer, lyricist, singer, performer and musician. He wanted to develop in his totality, and collected all kinds of books and articles for his research. It’s was fantastic that the cache includes hundreds of works by him and Hatterman. Hopefully all these works of art will provide new insights for researchers and an abundance of inspiration for generations of artists to come.

Bart Krieger, researcher and guest curator: “This discovery is every art historian’s dream, and a particular joy to me, because it’s within my area of expertise: Surinamese/Caribbean art. An incredible experience. I’d like to give a huge thank you to Surina Baag and her husband Jan Dirk De Jong for letting me open every door, drawer and box.


Ellen de Vries, researcher, Hatterman expert and guest curator: “Hatterman’s deed of inheritance stated that her heirs were Baag’s relatives. I had discovered art work and fascinating correspondence in the family’s archives before, and was convinced that more was yet to be uncovered. But so much! Unbelievable. This discovery confirms and underpins a significant segment of my findings with new facts. And also provides a lot of material for new reflections.

Nola Hatterman, sketch of Jazz, ca. 1934.
Nola Hatterman, sketch of Jazz, ca. 1934.
 Nola Hatterman, still life, without name or year, watercolor.
Nola Hatterman, still life, without name or year, watercolor.

Baag's heirs are currently looking for a location where the works can be made accessible. The newly discovered Baag drawings will be entrusted to a foundation along with his other works. The heirs are seeking to place Hatterman’s drawings in a public collection. Several Baag sketches on the theme of the December Murders, and Hatterman’s Attack on the Plantation will go on display in the Surinamese School exhibition when the Stedelijk reopens.

Monograph Nola Hatterman - Geen kunst zonder kunnen
Also in the recently published monograph Nola Hatterman Geen kunst zonder kunnen (Waanders & de Kunst, 2021), compiled by researcher and guest curator Ellen de Vries, the find is extensively discussed and various drawings are included. The publication includes a foreword by Rein Wolfs and contributions by Ellen de Vries, Bart Krieger and many others. The monograph is for sale in the museum shop and (online) bookshop.