Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My Father the Artist

My father carried the family's given name Jan Jacobus, that can be traced back into the 1700's. For centuries they had been housepainters, glass repairman and stained glass painters. My father was one of a twelve children, most of whom helped in the family business of house painting. His apprenticeship started at the age of twelve and he joined his father and older brothers in that trade. Besides the cleaning of brushes, the brothers taught him to roll his own cigarettes, a habit that remained with him till the end.

My father belonged to an artist group in Haarlem, which was part of the Dutch Federation of Artists Sculptors and Engravers. For acceptance into the guild, the artist's work has to be juried by nine art professors. This self portrait received all nine votes, he was granted professional artist status and was accepted into the guild. A portrait is a difficult object to paint and a self portrait the most difficult, as the artist has to look into a mirror and paint what he sees. Jan Jacobus had been accurate in what he had seen.

In the later part of his life, he took private lessons from the Rijksmuseum's restorer. He was taught how the Dutch Masters mixed their paints and he learned their methods of application. His goal was to become an art forger, which thankfully was short lived, as the restorer was caught and sentenced to jail as an art forger himself. My father's unfiltered smoking caught up to him and he passed away at the age of sixty-six at home.

I am often asked about the family name. Could it have been Van Rijn? …probably not.

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