Johannes Josephus Aarts. Part 1A ; Salt of the Dutch earth. Etchings & engravings.

Worker at a Wooden Fence,
Johannes Josephus Aarts, engraving c. 1902.

Whilst it may seem a trifle unempathetic to round up a human life, to precis an existence down to just the sum parts of interest to us, it must be done, selfishly in this case in order to get to the images, the art more swiftly. Arguably an artist’s work is the raison d’etre. Show don’t tell then, but tell a little, we must. 

A Dutch printmaker and painter, Johannes Josephus Aarts (18 August 1871 -119 October 1934) trained at the Royal Academy of Art in the Hague. He became a teacher at the Academy of Visual Arts in The Hague, afterwards he succeeded the artist Pieter Dupont as professor at Amsterdam’s Rijksakademie under the directorship of Antoon Derkinderen. He would make sculptures as preliminary studies for his graphic work and frequently wrote articles for the Hague newspaper ‘Het Vaderland’ (The Fatherland).

Although he did do some sculptures in wood and several, mostly pointillist landscape paintings, until around 1900 Aarts was devoted to engravings. So much so he was then seen and now known as a revivalist for the technique in the Netherlands. After 1900 he began to use other graphic techniques.

In his output there are two broad stages/areas of subject matter. First he concentrated on making epic everyday scenes of ordinary folk, salt of the (Dutch) earth toilers; farmworkers, dykeworkers, tramps, beggars and invalids; he painted portraits, animals and landscapes, cityscapes and dune landscapes. His experimentation in the medium during this period are now considered milestones in early 20th-century Dutch printmaking. 

Secondly (between 1920 and 1930) he produced visionary apocalyptic work which we’ll cover in part 2 of this post.

Scared worker. Engraving c. 1902. Johannes Josephus Aarts (1881-1934).
Five polder boys. Etching. Johannes Josephus Aarts (1881-1934).
Five Workers. Etching. Johannes Josephus Aarts (1881-1934).
Dyke workers. Lithograph. Johannes Josephus Aarts (1881-1934).
Standing Men and Women, Johannes Josephus Aarts, etching, c. 1881-1934.
Men-and-women-at-a-market, -Johannes-Josephus-Aarts, -1881 — 1934
Two workers make a rope. Lithography. Johannes Josephus Aarts (1881-1934).
Workers Carrying Stones. Lithography in grey. Johannes Josephus Aarts (1881-1934).
Two workers with ropes. Lithography on handmade Japanese paper. Johannes Josephus Aarts (1881-1934).
Men women and children near a tree. Etching, engraving and roulette. Johannes Josephus Aarts (1881-1934).
Worker slapping a rope. Engraving and plate tone with corrections in pencil and white chalk. Johannes Josephus Aarts (1881-1934).
Man and woman with bags on their backs. Etching. Johannes Josephus Aarts (1881-1934).
Market scene with men and women. Etching and plate tone on Japanese paper. Johannes Josephus Aarts (1881-1934).
Four polder boys. Etching.
Johannes Josephus Aarts (1881-1934).
Three workers at work. Etching.
Johannes Josephus Aarts (1881-1934).
Two workers at a sand quarry. Etching. Johannes Josephus Aarts (1881-1934).
Three Conversing Figures. Etching.
Johannes Josephus Aarts (1881-1934).
Bending women in sloping landscape. Etching.
Johannes Josephus Aarts (1881-1934).
Spanish dancer. Etching. Johannes Josephus Aarts (1881-1934).
Seated man in hilly landscape. Etching. Johannes Josephus Aarts (1881-1934).
Harvest of corn. Engraving and plate tone with additions in pencil. Johannes Josephus Aarts (1881-1934).

In this final picture (below) Aarts has added some mythological narrative (the satyr, the birds, the women in robes) to what would otherwise be an everyday rustic scene with wheatfield reapers. Perhaps this is a kind of segway, a transition. Aarts will eventually leave these everyday working scenes (and reality) way behind to plunge into apocolyptic fantasy. See the next (Part 2) post.

Landscape with wheatfeild reapers, satyr and female figures. Etching, roulette and plate tone on Japanese paper.
Johannes Josephus Aarts (1881-1934).

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