Click on photos to enlarge.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Pieter Dierkx

The Saint Willibrordus explaining the bible to the people living on the
shores of the river Scheld around 700 AD, 1939, Pieter Dierkx.
Every once in a while I come upon an artist whose work I like immensely, but who is not at all well known; nor was he or she particularly unique as an artist in their own time. Such artists are difficult to write about in that there is no apparent "hook" with which to grab the reader's attention or hang much of an intriguing narrative. Often times, there is not even much in the way of biographical information and sometimes a desperate lack of dates regarding individual paintings. In such cases, while the artist's work may be readily available, such digital preservation seems not to have been done by art historians, but by various enterprises seeking to sell framed prints or hand painted copies as such work comes under the copyright realm of public domain.
Pieter Dierkx--Impressionist style, Academic content.
Pieter Dierkx Self-portrait
One such artist was the Belgian painter, Pieter Dierkx (above). Dierkx (pronounced Derx) was born in Antwerp in 1871. That means he came of age as a painter during the height of the Impressionist period in nearby France and the Netherlands. And though he would likely be considered an Impressionist in terms of style, it's in the area of content that he might be deemed in any way unique. You see, most Impressionists painted landscapes. Dierkx seldom did. Few Impressionists painted genre (everyday life). Dierkx often did. Few, if any, Impressionists painted religious subjects. Dierkx did; also mythology, which Impressionists virtually never touched. He was also a more than adequate portrait painter as seen in his self-portrait (right). Based upon these peculiarities, one might class him as an Academic Impressionist, which is an acute conflict of terms if there ever was one.
In the Forest, (alas, no date), Pieter Dierkx,
as Impressionist as they come, yet one of his few landscapes.
The Lace Worker, Pieter Dierkx,
Impressionist genre. The leering
character in the window cracks me up.
Probably Pieter Dierkx's most impressive work is a fifteen-foot-long painting with the page-stretching title of The Saint Willibrordus Explaining the Bible to the People Living on the Shores of the River Scheld Around 700 AD (top), painted rather late in his career, around 1939. Dierkx had studied at Belgium's Royal Academy of Fine Arts, so his rather old-fashioned, academic choice of subjects came rather naturally. In fact, for a time (around the turn of the century) he was director of the drawing academy in Temse (in the Flanders region of northern Belgium). So, by all rights, he should be considered an Academician. Yet most of the time, he painted Impressionistically. His amusing genre painting, The Lace Worker (right), is typical.

The Sober Meal, Pieter Dierkx
Portrait of Boerke Naas, Pieter Dierkx
Though Dierkx seems to have been modestly successful during his career, painting large, historic civic scenes, while meeting his living expenses from book illustrations, teaching, painting portraits (left), genre scenes, and the occasional landscape, he seems also to have been very much aware of the daily struggle for survival of the less fortunate around him. His The Sober Meal (above) is in no way as lighthearted as his The Lace Worker, yet neither is it as dark and dreary as van Gogh's The Potato Eaters, likely painted around the same time. Likewise, his Distribution of Soap (below), while in no way cheerful, still exudes an Impressionist glow, demonstrating that style and content need not be locked together. Pieter Dierkx died in 1950 at the age of seventy-nine.
The Distribution of Soap, Pieter Dierkx


No comments:

Post a Comment