The noble girl Jeanne Oosting saw only one escape from her golden cage: painting

Jeanne Bieruma Oosting (1898-1994) put everything in her life at the service of her art. She came from a wealthy, noble family, but she managed to escape the planned life for her as a married woman. She arranged painting and drawing classes for herself in Haarlem and The Hague, stayed in Paris in the 1930s and returned to the Netherlands. And she would never marry. She painted, illustrated and drew all her life.

In Almen, ten kilometers from Zutphen, the local museum breathes a sigh of relief jeanne sommer temporarily regain the atmosphere of Oosting. When she was able to decorate her own cottage here for the first time on the outskirts of the village in 1955, she made sure that the interior did not bore her. Here, too, everything had to give way to art. She wrote to a colleague about this interior: ‘Light, airy and spacious, so that the blue and soft green colors form the pleasant accents to the accompaniment or atmosphere of everything you paint there’.

In the biography Do not waste time Jolande Withuis has aptly described this inexhaustible love of art, now the small museum Almen also shows what she devoted all her energy to. The museum itself has only a few prints of Oosting, but the artist was generous in distributing drawings, prints and paintings in his area, so many people in the neighborhood borrowed ‘their’ Oosting temporarily.

A drawing with a simple black ink

Her design with the ‘comfortable accents’ did her job: A chair with blue stripes, high shutters with horizontal slats and bright curtains with the flowers are repeated in her work. Sometimes in a drawing with a simple black ink, sometimes in a complex multicolored print. Contemporary artist Philine van der Vegte was inspired by Oosting’s animal print. A film shows how the complex litho technique, the printing technique that Oosting often used, works in practice.


Jeanne Bieruma Oosting, Self-portrait in work cooler, 1936, oil on canvas, Fries Museum, Leeuwarden.Statue Frisian Museum, Leeuwarden

A collage of yellowed photos gives an impression of what the artist and her house really looked like: red-blond hair dyed, painting articles everywhere, ashtrays strategically scattered throughout the house. Even flowers in a vase were not there for decoration, but served as a model for a drawing or painting.

Ten kilometers away, the Museum Henriëtte Polak in Zutphen has set up a much larger exhibition, which presents her life and works chronologically through the chapters from Withuis’ book. An exhibition with many loans, works from his own collection and letters and photos from various archives.

Six self-portraits

The presentation opens with six self-portraits of Oosting from all periods of her life: alternately dressed chic and then again in painter’s shirt, self-conscious and modest at the same time. Her style would never change radically, the subjects are always recognizable – abstraction or radical distortions did not appeal to her.

‘In search of a subject’ Oosting draws himself with a friend walking through Bruges. They both wear berets and have a drawing file under their arm. If you look at a single work by Oosting, it may seem a little superficial – illustrative, cute still lifes, flowers, portraits. But now, with an overview of all the different periods and genres, it becomes clear that Oosting simply found a topic to record in everything she saw.

As Withuis clearly describes in his biography, Oosting was born in a castle with forty rooms. There was plenty of money in this smart, noble environment, but as a woman she was still in a worse position. Women were not allowed to go to school, they had almost no rights, were expected to marry and then stay at home. They had no control over the money.

Ice queen trapped in a castle

Such a future was a nightmare for Oosting. She also appropriately captured this in the lithograph Une vie manquee, a lost life where an ice queen is trapped in a castle.

Her sharp eye is a constant in her work, as is her sense of humor. For example, she gives two ‘eating models’ in a bar in Paris an overwhelming amount of fur on her body. And in December 1940, she draws a print in which, instead of Christmas balls, human skulls hang from the Christmas tree, with burning candles in the eye sockets – a sharp depiction of the war threat she experienced in Paris.

Her multicolored lithographs, which she made for Solomon’s hymn, are stunning, where due to the technique she was more dependent on larger color areas. She chose a different style in each technique, making the versatility of atmospheres and styles, now that everything is connected, extra noticeable.

In the Zutphen Museum, the walls are too tight to show everything. Outside the exhibition, in the permanent collection, one can still see the stained glass windows that she has also designed and portraits that artist friends have made of her. An appropriate tribute, which makes it clear that all her work has not been in vain.

‘Jeanne Summer. Jeanne Bieruma Oosting back in Almen ‘can be seen until October 30 in Museum Staal in Almen,’ No time to lose. Jeanne Bieruma Oosting ‘can be seen until 21 August at the Museum Henriette Polak in Zutphen.

Jeanne’s summer

Works by Jeanne Bieruma Oosting will be exhibited at five museums this summer. In Almen and Zutphen, but also in Nobili’s center for graphics in Fochteloo (between Assen and Drachten). The Belvédère Museum at Heerenveen explains with the exhibition Playing with the mice the emphasis on Oosting’s Frisian youth and her time in Paris.

Museum Maassluis, to which Oosting donated no less than one hundred and nine works at the end of his life, shows Everyday poetry where Oosting’s fascination with everyday things plays the main role.

Bicycle tours are also arranged in Achterhoek along the places where the artist came, and in Beetsterzwaag there is a free outdoor exhibition about Oosting’s youth in the Overtuin Lycklamahûs. For opening hours and more information, see: dezomervanjeanne.nl

Jolande Withuis, Do not waste time. Jeanne Bieruma Oosting 1898-1994 published by De Bezige Bij and costs 39.99

Also read:

No, her messy family did not like the painter Jeanne Oosting

In her lifetime, she was widely praised, but artist Jeanne Oosting has now almost been forgotten. Why, one wonders when reading Jolande Withuis’ biography. It makes very curious about the work of the woman who just went about her business.

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