It almost never happens: Six exhibitions at the same time by one and the same artist. Under the name ‘The Summer of Jeanne’, works by Jeanne Bieruma Oosting (1898-1994) can be seen in Zutphen, Maassluis, Almen, Heerenveen, Fochteloo and Beetsterzwaag.
Oosting was therefore very productive and versatile. “It’s not an activity, but a passion,” reads a statement from her side. Painting was not a hobby for her, but a profession. As an unmarried woman with her own profession, she was far ahead of her time.
Oosting was a big name. Museums would like her work. She sold a lot, often paintings with interiors, flowers and landscapes, but also much more daring motifs.
That there is now a wealth of unknown and modern works on display is, among other things, thanks to cinema Jolande Withuis. with his book Do not waste time she put the name Jeanne Bieruma Oosting back on the map. The title refers to Oosting’s incredible ambition, which was thwarted in her childhood. “So she had a lot of time to catch up,” Withuis says.
Dineke Kruisink, who lived opposite Oosting in Almen until late in life, remembers that race with time. “She did not go, she marched! She was always busy, smoking like a heretic. When she came for coffee, she went as soon as the coffee was in the filter. Everything took too long for her, she wanted to go back to work.”
As a child in a rich and aristocratic family in Friesland, Oosting was destined to have children and thus secure the title of nobility. The fact that she decided to become an artist at the age of sixteen led to major conflicts, especially with her father. While her brother and sister lacked nothing financially, Jeanne’s parents did not support her choice of an art education. In a 1994 interview with TV station RVU, she said: “My father has always had the feeling: that the daughter has failed, it will not work.”
Oosting did not become discouraged and kept discovering things she wanted to paint. Withuis: “She could be very influenced by the light, the nature, an interior. Painting was really her life. That was also the reason she did not want to get married: she did not start spending your time in the household.”
Oosting was not only “the woman from the beautiful oil paintings”, says Withuis. “She made woodcuts, lithographs, etchings and watercolors. She also loved learning something new all the time.”
In 1929, Oosting traveled to Paris, at that time the artist’s Mecca of the world, an unprecedented step for a woman alone. Despite the poverty she lived in, she enjoyed the exhibitions and the art to the fullest. Among other things, she learned the art technique of lithography.
She went her own ways in the French artist circuit. The sketches of female nude photos she made at brothels and elaborated at home were daring. “Now that I was in Paris, I also wanted to know everything,” she later said. “The women were like Eve (from Adam, ed.).”
This series of nude photos can now be seen in the Museum Belvédère. “They have rarely been exhibited,” says curator Susan van den Berg. “The great thing is that the women do not pose, but are busy with their daily routine.”
The women in the lithographs wash or change a brace. They do not smile and do not care about the artist in front of them. The work still appears modern. Although Oosting herself had no trouble showing the daring work, her surroundings discouraged it, and the series disappeared into the background forever.
‘I am a painter’
Another lesser-known work in the Museum Belvédère is on topics such as death, illness and decay. “It was not cheerful themes that she used in the thirties,” says Van den Berg. “Many influences came to her in Paris, which accelerated her development as a person and artist.”
It is the abrasive side of Oosting’s work that Withuis wanted to show. “Her best-selling work, known by museum directors, was often accessible, beautifully colored and technically savvy, but also quickly forgotten and out of fashion. It was precisely the graphics and nude images that were so incredibly innovative, with a fighting side.”
Withuis chose the self-portrait of Oosting below for the cover of his book. “It’s a triumphant painting that exudes ‘I won, I’m a painter!’. That’s exactly what’s written on her tombstone.”
Jeanne Bieruma Oosting’s work can be seen in six places in the Netherlands.