CODART, Dutch and Flemish art in museums worldwide

Nicolaas Wijnberg: Figura

Exhibition: 25 October 2008 - 22 February 2009

Museum press release, June 2008

Nicolaas Wijnberg became widely known as a scenery- and costume designer. He was also a painter, graphic artist, and a sought-after illustrator and poster designer. Wijnberg’s work evidenced a distinct sense of colour. He was a virtuoso in mastering techniques and in his own way interwove half of art history in his ’un-Dutch-looking’ paintings. From 25 October 2008 through 22 February 2009 the Museum voor Moderne Kunst Arnhem will present a retrospective exhibition entitled Nicolaas Wijnberg: Figura.

In the periods of CoBrA, geometric abstraction and conceptual art, Nicolaas Wijnberg (1918-2006) was a contrary and isolated figure. In 1947 he founded the Realists: a group of figurative painters whose spokesman he became. They did not reject modern forms but turned against the idiom of Experimentation that had become the norm in the Dutch art world after World War II.

In addition to being a painter Wijnberg was also a versatile graphic artist. He drew inspiration from almost limitless sources: traces of Breitner, Picasso, Beckmann, Campendonk, Dufy, Campigli, De Chirico, Ensor and Pyke Koch can be recognized in his work. Later the surreal atmosphere and use of colour in the work of his friend Melle Oldeboerrigter and the rise of realists such as Hermanus Berserik, Pat Andrea and Aat Veldhoen led him to join in their figurative efforts. He continued to employ various forms of expression and technique and even within the group his position always remained unique and idiosyncratic.

His decorative talent made Wijnberg a sought-after illustrator, poster designer, creator of monumental art, and scenery- and costume designer. He was the first professor of scenic design at the Jan van Eyck Academy in Maastricht, which he helped found. His professional colleagues considered him a pioneer in modern theatre design in the postwar era. From June through December the Netherlands Theatre Institute in Amsterdam presents an exhibition featuring Wijnberg’s theatre scenery and costumes. Beginning in September the Stadsschouwburg in Arnhem (in cooperation with the MMKA) will exhibit Potemkin’s Theater, Wijnberg’s complete series of 25 painted theatre recollections. Finally, the retrospective exhibition ‘Nicolaas Wijnberg: Figura’ in the Museum voor Moderne Kunst includes paintings, works on paper, sketchbooks, designs for monumental art, and book jackets. There will be a retrospective of the works of his friend Melle (Oldeboerrigter) on view during the same period.


Wijnberg 1918-2006
Ger Luijten, Frans Duister, Marijn Schapelhouman, Joke van Pelt, Heleen Janssens, Feico Hoekstra, Frans van Lier and Toine Moerbeek
Published on the occasion of an exhibition held in 2008-09 in Arnhem (MMKA)
29 x 24 cm., 304 pp., 150 illustrations in color, 150 in black-and-white, hardbound
Bussum (Thoth) 2008
ISBN-13: 978-90-6868-426-1