‘It’s an ode to local artists from the past and present’

Hubrecht Duijker is best known as a wine writer. Now he wrote a book about painting in his hometown of Abcoude.

Kees Keijer

Duijker (80) received a pair of Van Gogh socks and a book for his birthday last year. Painting in Laren. He liked the book so much that two days later he wrote a letter to the publisher with a proposal. Would it be an idea to make a similar book about the painters from Abcoude and Het Gein?

Duijker: “We received a reply the next morning. The publisher thought it was a good idea and asked me if I would like to write the book. I hadn’t thought about that for a second.”

He calls it a leap of faith. And it was pure coincidence that he was allowed to do this. Nevertheless, Duijker has brought it a bit on himself. For some time he has called himself a ‘wine impressionist’, a term that reflects his passion for both wine and art.

“Exactly six years ago I started painting in my spare time. I had always wanted to do it and took a few lessons in the nineties, with no luck. But six years ago I started taking painting lessons again and I was mainly inspired by the Impressionists from France, Holland, Spain and America. As a result, I became very intensively involved in the world of amateur art. So then I decided to change the name of my profession from wine writer to wine impressionist. It is also understandably international. Wine writer, they can’t even pronounce that in Spain.”

Fifth by Beethoven

He invented the term wine writer years ago, when in 1971 he started writing a column about wine for The password. Duijker initially worked for a large advertising agency, but was increasingly drawn to the world of wine. He now has more than a hundred books to his name, which have been published in various countries.

Duijker does not find writing about art very different from writing about wine. At least he doesn’t want to. “A Flemish culinary journalist once mockingly wrote about me as ‘Tintin in the wine country’. I thought that was a compliment because I am an admirer of Hergé in drawing. He was of the clear line. I also try to follow the clear line as closely as possible when describing wine.”

“How do you explain with one sense what the other sense experiences? The hardest part is with music. How do you explain what Beethoven’s Fifth or a Mozart Piano Concerto sounds like if you’ve never heard it before? It is impossible. Fortunately, it is a bit easier to explain what a wine you have never tasted tastes like, but you have to use all sorts of associations and understandable expressions to make it clear.”

And that also applies to art. Art is written about in a very important and profound way, but I prefer to write about art that you can enjoy.”

Nine seconds

Duijker also sees parallels between wine and art. “The more you know, the more you enjoy. Behind every wine there is a story about the producer, the domain, the grape variety, the region or the local cuisine. The same goes for painting.”

“I once had a tour of the Rijksmuseum and the art historian told me that on average people look at a work of art for nine seconds. Still, in a museum you can get overwhelmed and then you tend to stay a little longer. You also do that with wine. If I feel the urge to take another sip after the first sip, that’s what matters. With many wines, I’m done after the first sip, done.”

Duijker grew up in Johannes Verhulststraat and later lived with his family in Osdorp. In 1974 they moved to Abcoude. The walls of the living room are now completely covered with paintings of our own making and of friendly villagers. There are also paintings along the banks and all sorts of other places.

By bicycle

Thanks in part to Gein, Abcoude became an artists’ village at the end of the nineteenth century. “At a certain point, the Amsterdam-Utrecht railway line was also built with a station in Abcoude. That station is even next to Gein, so the painters came and could get to work, so to speak.”

Some artists settled in Abcoude. Others stayed there temporarily. Simon Maris rented a summer house in Abcoude for many years and invited painter friends to paint. The most famous painter to go to the village was undoubtedly Piet Mondrian, who went to Abcoude by bicycle from Amsterdam. He immortalized one of the windmills along Gein twenty times. There are 13 known versions of a group of trees near a farm. The famous photographer Jacob Olie took pictures there and gave drawing lessons to boys who were apprenticed to carpenters.

The book’s focus slowly shifts to amateur painters who now live or work in Abcoude. Sometimes they do landscapes and village views along the Gein, but there are also portraits of the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa. “It is an ode to local artists from the past and today. For me, it doesn’t matter if someone is an amateur or a professional.”

Hubrecht Duijker, The painters of Abcoude and Het GeinWBOOKS, ISBN 9789462585164, €24.95

Also appears in the same series Painters of Amsterdam. The book describes how many artists found each other on the frayed edges of the city. After a while they were forced to move to other places. Werner van den Belt and Bob Hardus, Painters of AmsterdamWBOOKS, ISBN 9789462585157, €29.95

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