News — 18 Nov 2013

Amsterdam, November 18, 2013 — Hendrik Nicolaas Werkman (1882–1945) was a member of De Ploeg (The Plough), founded in 1918 as a group of painters living and working in Groningen, Werkman owned a small printing business and designed printed posters, invitations, and catalogues for the group, and took part in their activities and exhibitions. In the 1920s he published his own journals, Blad voor Kunst and The Next Call. During World War II, Werkman designed a number of publications for the clandestine publisher De Blauwe Schuit, offering a veiled critique of the Nazi regime. He accompanied the texts with beautifully colored druksels, or “printings.” During this time, Werkman created one of his most noted works, a double series of 10 prints: Chassidic Legends I and II. On the eve of Holland’s liberation from German occupation, Werkman’s life came to an abrupt end: He was arrested by the Sicherheitsdienst and executed by firing squad, with nine others, barely a week before Groningen was liberated. 

On November 20, 1962, as Willem Sandberg was preparing to step down as director of the Stedelijk Museum, a foundation named Stichting H. N. Werkman was established with the aim of promoting the work of Werkman to a broader audience, partly through the publication of a catalogue raisonné. 

Thanks to the efforts of the foundation, the handsome catalogue on the artist’s work, H. N. Werkman. Het Complete Oeuvre was published in 2008, accompanied later by the publication Hendrik Nicolaas Werkman, Brieven rond De Blauwe Schuit 19401945.

The foundation is now being disbanded because it has achieved its aim of promoting Werkman’s work by publishing a catalogue of his complete oeuvre. To mark the occasion, the foundation is dividing its Werkman collection between the two museums that nurture and conserve the legacy of this artist and printer. The works were donated to the foundation by Werkman’s widow, Greet Werkman-van Leeuwen; and by the recently deceased art connoisseur and collector Piet Sanders, who was the first chair of Stichting H. N. Werkman. Professor Geert H. Blijham, the current chair, will present the Stedelijk Museum with 94 works. Fifty-nine works in the gift will go to the Groninger Museum. On Thursday, November 21, managing director Karin van Gilst will accept the donation on behalf of the Stedelijk Museum, and director Andreas Blühm on behalf of the Groninger Museum.

Werkman and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Werkman first met Willem Sandberg, then chief conservator at the Stedelijk Museum, on the brink of World War II. Originally trained as a typographer, Sandberg acquired many works by Werkman for the Stedelijk. In 1939, it was also Sandberg who mounted Werkman’s first solo exhibition in Amsterdam. When Werkman visited Sandberg in 1941, the conservator took him to see the bunker in the dunes near Castricum, which the Stedelijk used as a temporary art storage depot during the war. This visit prompted Werkman to create the series of druksels titled Amsterdam-Castricum that same year. In the autumn of 1945, Sandberg hosted the exhibition H. N. Werkman drukker-schilder, an impressive presentation paying tribute to the artist, who had been executed that April. It was also the commencement of a series of (often traveling) exhibitions of his work abroad. The first publication devoted to Werkman’s work was the catalogue by Stedelijk Museum curator Jan van Loenen Martinet in 1963, on which the 2008 publication was based. In 2012, the newly renovated Stedelijk reopened with a gallery dedicated to Werkman’s graphic work. The museum now holds 832 works by the artist. This gift brings the museum a step closer to realizing its ambition of having the richest possible overview of his work.

Werkman and the Groninger Museum

The Groninger Museum was also an early collector of work by Hendrik Nicolaas Werkman. The museum owns a significant collection of druksels, printed matter, drawings, and paintings, and regularly highlights the work of this exceptional artist. From 2002 to 2008, the Groninger Museum and Groninger State University collaborated on a research project into the work of H. N. Werkman, which resulted in the publication of the catalogue raisonné. The current gift of 59 works to the Groninger Museum represents an important addition to the museum’s holdings.

In 2015, 70 years after Werkman’s death, the Groninger Museum will celebrate the artist’s life and work in a solo exhibition opening on April 10. In collaboration with the new Stichting Werkman 2015, the museum will release a special book on Werkman, highlighting his position as an innovative artist and the inspiration he derived from the historic times in which he lived. Stichting Werkman 2015 invites the cultural life of Groningen to be inspired by the life and work of Werkman. Plans for the full celebration are in progress, with proposals for exhibitions, film, music, theater, and visual art. The exhibition and cultural program will affirm the influence and stature of one of Holland’s most renowned artists.


Note to editors
For more information: Marie-José Raven or Annematt Ruseler, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam Press Office, + 31 (0)20 – 573 2656 / 660, Josée Selbach, Groninger Museum Press Office, +31 (0)50 – 3 666 506,