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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Jacobus van Looy

Opulence in Summer, 1900, Jacobus van Looy
The Frans Hals Museum is now located in what was once the Haarlem Reformed Burger Orphanage at Groot Heiligland. The Dutch painter and writer, Jacobus van Looy was once located in that orphanage. Jacobus Van Looy was born in 1855, the son of a carpenter. However, his father lost his job when his eyesight failed him and his mother died when he was just five years old. His father died soon afterwards. Thus the young boy ended up in the orphanage. He trained to become a house and carriage painter. Fortunately, he was also a talented draftsman and so was given the opportunity to study at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunst in Amsterdam after having been trained as a drawing teacher through financial support from the directors of De Teylers Foundation.

Had Jacobus van Looy lived in any number of countries other
than Holland during the mid-19th-Century without their early form of "social safety net" his life might have been quite different.
In 1884, at the age of twenty-nine, van Looy won Holland's version of the French Prix de Rome, which allowed him to travel. During the next two years he traveled throughout Italy, Spain, and Morocco. Haarlem Orphans (above) was painted by Charles Frederic Ulrich in 1884. Though Van Looy was already travelling by that time, Ulrich's painting shows the uniform for Haarlem orphans that he wore until his teens, having one red sleeve and one blue sleeve. It also depicts the interior of what is now the Frans Hals Museum, when it was still an orphanage. The painting by Jan de Bray (above, top), though dating from two-hundred years earlier when the orphanage was founded, provides some insights into the caring social environment that in van Looy's time had long been a part of Dutch life.

The Dutch author and painter personified the close association between art and literature in the late 19th-Century.
Van Looy wrote first in the direct, personal, “1880” style, in his popular novel De Dood van Mijn Poes (The Death of My Cat) in 1889. The influence of Symbolism at the time is seen in his early story De Nachtcactus (The Night Cactus), of 1888, with the flower representing ephemeral desire that blooms for one night and then dies. In his later work Feesten (Celebrations), from 1902, van Looy appears more objective, describing scenes from lower-middle-class life. In his autobiographical Jaapje dating from 1923, and Jacob, written shortly before his death in 1930, van Looy shows a genius for impressionistic word-painting.

Pussycat at a Window, 1895,
Jacobus van Looy, (the cat
that died in 1889, perhaps?).
Portrait of a Choirboy, Jacobus van Looy
In 1892 Jacobus van Looy married Titia van Gelder in Amsterdam. The couple settled in Soest where they continued to live until 1913. In that year the Van Looys moved to Haarlem where they bought a house on the Kleine Houtweg. From that time on, the artist led a somewhat withdrawn but very industrious life, during which he painted during the day and wrote in the evening. Jacobus died in 1930. His wife would survive him for ten years. In commemoration of her husband she established their residence as a permanent exhibition of his work. She also added some rooms to the house for that purpose.

The Sacrifice of Eve and Abel, 1884, Jacobus van Looy.
The nearby Frans Hals Museum manages the extensive legacy of Jacobus van Looy, which is owned by the Jacobus van Looy Foundation. Over the past two years, this foundation has acquired many Van Looy works, including paintings, drawings, and letters. In 2005, sixty drawings and figure studies were purchased at Christie's in Amsterdam. Several other paintings and drawings have since been purchased by benefactors for the foundation. Over the next years, the foundation has acquired some fifty additional drawings, a few paintings, and a large number of letters from the Evert Jansen heirs.

The Age of Innocence, Jacobus van Looy
Evert Jansen was befriended by Jacobus and Titia van Looy as a child. He came from a poor family and the couple knew of his circumstances. They paid his tuition at the craft school he attended. Throughout his life Jansen remained grateful to the Van Looys. He did numerous jobs for them and worked for several years as a guard and administrator of the van Looy museum. As thanks for his help, he received numerous works from Titia van Looy. These have been added to the collection of the foundation.

The house where Jacob van Looy lived until his death,
and where a museum was opened after the death
of his widow from 1949-1967.


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