Willem van Konijnenburg
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Willem van Konijnenburg (The Hague 1868 – 1943)

A highly influential illustrator and theorist, Van Konijnenburg received his first lessons from his mother and also received advice from Mesdag and W. Maris. After finishing his training at the Academie voor Beeldenden Kunsten in The Hague he painted a large number of landscapes in the style of the «Barbizon School». Like his kindred spirit Mondriaan, he quickly left Impressionism behind, as he felt, in his own words, that he «lacked sources of spiritual inspiration». Around 1910 he arrived at an art form that was appropriate to his needs with a spiritual and religious foundation, which shows a parallel development with the work of Toorop.

Van Konijnenburg was a vain man competing in the same artistic field as both Mondriaan and Toorop. However, Toorop was living in Nijmegen at the time and Mondriaan was in Paris. It was mockingly said, in reference to his rivalry with Mondriaan, that «the Rabbit (a play on the surname Konijnenburg the first part of which means ‘rabbit’) and Mondriaan danced the Tango, only that Mondriaan did it in Paris and the Rabbit in The Hague». Nevertheless, Van Konijnenburg was the only artist practising this elevated genre of religious, esoteric art in The Hague at that time. Art critics gave him the derogatory nicknames such as «the Dandy» and «De Zwezerik (sweetbread), the finest cut of meat» (Plasschaert).

Yet the real moment of truth for Van Konijnenburg came when Toorop moved to The Hague in 1917. A test of strength between the two artists ensued which brought out the best in Van Konijnenburg. The art historian Plasschaert has characterized his relationship with Jan Toorop as one of «mutual complementation».




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