Biography J.C.A. Goedhart


Jan Goedhart was born on the 18th of June 1893 in Silau Toewa, situated to the east of Lake Toba in Sumatra in the former Dutch East Indies. His father, J.G.A. Goedhart (186o-1932) was a retired naval officer then employed as chief administrator of the Deli Cultuur Maatschappij (the Deli Plantation Company); his mother was C.A. Voorduin (1863-1893), daughter of Lieutenant-Commander G.W.C. Voorduin (1830-1910). She died a few days after giving birth. When Jan was six, he was sent to relatives in the Netherlands. He lived in Den Helder, Apeldoorn, The Hague and finally moved back to Apeldoorn where he completed his secondary education. There his talent for drawing was recognized and he received his first drawing and painting lessons from the Apeldoorn sculptor P. Puijpe (1874-1942).

A few years later, his father showed a few of Jan’s drawings to Professor C.L. Dake (1857-1918) who was a teacher at the Rijks-Academie in Amsterdam. Apparently, Dake was so impressed that he gave him private lessons for a year in his studio at the Academy and at the end of that year Jan sat the entrance examination. Dake had so much confidence in his pupil that he also entered Jan for the examinations for the next highest class. When asked in which direction he wanted to develop his skills, Jan answered that he loved the sea and ships and so would really like to paint seascapes. Dake, however, advised him to choose portrait painting arguing that: ‘we do not have sea here’ and, more importantly, ‘often, you can make a better living from painting portraits than from other subjects.’

After an interruption caused by mobilization for World War I, Goedhart returned to the Academy in 1917. In the meantime Professor Dake had died and so Jan asked Professor J.H. Jurres (1875-1946) to supervise the completion of his studies. In 1921 he set himself up in Amsterdam as an independent painter.

During this period he concentrated mainly on portraits, but was rather disappointed with the artistic life. In the meantime he had married and found it difficult to earn a living. Gradually, his thoughts began to turn to The Hague, where he expected to meet with more success as a portrait painter. He moved to The Hague and, at the end of 1921, joined the Artistic Society Pulchri Studio’. Here he made acquaintance with a number of what he considered ‘leading lights’ including Jan Sluijters (1881-1957) and Kees van Dongen (1877-1967). Goedhart, who was a modest and rather shy man, actually chose his own direction and did not seek the company of other artists. At this point his private life was in turmoil and in 1925 his marriage was dissolved. In contrast, artistically, matters were progressing well, he was gaining recognition; particularly as a portrait painter. In 1930 he had the honor of being commissioned to paint the portrait of Queen Wilhelmina for the city hall in Hulst in the province of Zeeland.

That same year he married Jenny van Beusekom, a student at the Academy of Music. By this time Goedhart had acquired a certain degree of recognition and it was not long before he was granted his first big exhibition at the famous Kunstzalen Kleykamp. The Kleykamp Art Rooms were important in the cultural life of The Hague during the interbellum period. In addition to portraits, he exhibited floral studies, life studies and a few marine paintings. The latter were usually painted for his own pleasure.

In 1932, he accompanied his wife to Germany where she had been entrusted with looking after some business affairs for her father. They spent most of their holidays there, since at that time, German law prohibited the transfer of funds abroad. In Germany, despite concentrating on landscape paintings, Goedhart expanded his marine oeuvre. He drew his inspiration from sea voyages to Norway and Southern Europe, sailing on ships such as the SS Bremen and several freighters. In addition to ships, he painted ports, coastal landscapes and seascapes. He worked mainly from direct observation and finished the canvases on location. When circumstances prevented this, he made sketches in oils. His impressionist style paintings attracted considerable attention; pieces painted whilst traveling were often sold during the voyage. In 1937, financial affairs forced Goedhart to settle in Dusseldorf. As he was politically rather naive, he was completely taken by surprise by the Second World War. He moved to Southern Germany where he and his family — his wife had given birth to their daughter, Winifred, in 1933 — waited for the War to end. These years passed without hardship, but as soon as suitable housing became available in the Netherlands, he and his family returned.

In 1951, he made is first voyage on a naval vessel. At the invitation of the Dutch Royal Navy, he and a few other artists spent a few days on Hr. Ms. Batjan. The works which this voyage inspired were later exhibited at various locations including the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. These works attracted so much attention, that the Navy took the initiative which led to the founding of the Nederlandse Vereniging van Zeeschilders (Dutch Society of Marine Painters). Goedhart, who had been involved in its conception, was one of its first members. The following year, together with his wife, Goedhart made a voyage on the M.S. Argos belonging to the KNSM (Royal Dutch Steamship Company) to the Mediterranean and on to the Black Sea. The trip produced a treasure-trove of material: photographs, sketches and completed works. In later years, at the invitation of the Dutch Navy he was to make a number of voyages to the North sea and the Mediterranean.

During this period he developed into one of the most important Dutch marine painters of the 20th century. His paintings stand out because of his eye for the shape of ships and his selection of detail; he either treated details summarily or omitted them altogether as they are indeed observed at sea. One characteristic seen in many of his works is the heavy, sometimes idiosyncratic way in which he portrayed cloudy skies. Goedhart worked in a realistic-impressionist style, usually resorting to a myriad of colours and shades in the sky, clouds and the water. His approach led him to produce works which were almost monochromatic because ‘when the weather is murky, it is indeed murky’. The fact that this attitude was no bar to success is apparent from the painting that he did of the arrival of the British royal couple on the Royal Yacht HMS Britannia for the state visit of 1958. A number of artists had been invited on board of one of the Dutch Navy ships to witness the arrival of the Britannia off IJmuiden. Despite the drizzly weather and the rather formal occasion, Goedhart succeeded in making an outstanding painting which was selected by a jury to be presented, on behalf of the Dutch Navy to the British Queen. The event took place in the summer of 196o and was attended by the artist.

In his work, Goedhart betrayed a preference for naval vessels and sea-going tugs. He was also greatly impressed by the appearance of the American liner SS United States with her imposing chimneys. He made a number of paintings of this ship. Besides ships and harbours, he regularly painted studies of the sea: ‘pure’ seascapes, without ships, in all possible weather conditions and colours.

In addition to his maritime work, Goedhart continued portrait painting. In this field he scored a notable success in 1965 when he entered for an international competition organized by the Sociedad Bolivariana in Venuzuela. The task was to paint a life-sized portrait of the statesman and head of the armed forces Simon Bolivar (1783-183o). The preparatory work was extensive and time consuming. The uniform, with all the military decorations, was a particular challenge. He finally solved the problem after studying a Venezuelan postage stamp and could begin this (literally) enormous task. The sheer size was another obstacle. At the age of seventy-two, Goedhart settled himself on a table in order to reach the top of the painting. Seventy-eight fellow artists from seventeen countries entered the competition and finally, seven works were selected to hang in the presidential palace in Caracas. Goedhart won the honor of second place.

In the maritime works painted in the 196os, some influence of others is perceptible. Goedhart did not often socialize with colleagues and he sought publicity for his works even less. However, his membership of the Society of Marine Painters proved useful. He maintained his own traditional style but, due to his interaction with fellow artists he was open to certain artistic innovations. From this time onwards, for example, he was more frequently inclined to see certain studies of the sea and ships, some even quite abstract, as completed and individual works of art.

The exhibitions which the Society organized at regular intervals throughout the country were important to him and also ensured that his work was seen by ever increasing circles of admirers. Many were bought for private collections, by shipping companies such as the Koninklijke Rotterdamse Lloyd and the Holland-America line but, above all, by the Dutch Royal Navy.

In his later years, Goedhart became less mobile because of a health problem. Since he did not drive he had to resort to his moped, a light motor-bike, or public transport which was a considerable obstacle to working on location. He would, for example, have loved to paint once more in the port of Rotterdam but this hardly happened if at all. This is also why the voyages with the Navy were so valuable to him. From the end of the 1960s he became gradually more housebound. This did not, however prevent him from remaining active. He painted almost daily: the view from his balcony and the rooftops beyond, the flowers in his garden, portraits, seascapes… One old photograph of three J-Class ships in combat inspired him to paint his last important marine piece. Jan Goedhart died on the 16th of September 1975 leaving behind a maritime oeuvre which reflects the tradition of marine painting in the Low Countries in all its wealth and variety.