Johannes Josephus Aarts. Part 1A ; Salt of the Dutch earth. Etchings & engravings.
Whilst it may seem a trifle unempathetic to round up a human life, to precis an existence down to just the sum parts of interest to us, it must be done, selfishly in this case in order to get to the images, the art more swiftly. Arguably an artist’s work is the raison d’etre. Show don’t tell then, but tell a little, we must.
A Dutch printmaker and painter, Johannes Josephus Aarts (18 August 1871 -119 October 1934) trained at the Royal Academy of Art in the Hague. He became a teacher at the Academy of Visual Arts in The Hague, afterwards he succeeded the artist Pieter Dupont as professor at Amsterdam’s Rijksakademie under the directorship of Antoon Derkinderen. He would make sculptures as preliminary studies for his graphic work and frequently wrote articles for the Hague newspaper ‘Het Vaderland’ (The Fatherland).
Although he did do some sculptures in wood and several, mostly pointillist landscape paintings, until around 1900 Aarts was devoted to engravings. So much so he was then seen and now known as a revivalist for the technique in the Netherlands. After 1900 he began to use other graphic techniques.
In his output there are two broad stages/areas of subject matter. First he concentrated on making epic everyday scenes of ordinary folk, salt of the (Dutch) earth toilers; farmworkers, dykeworkers, tramps, beggars and invalids; he painted portraits, animals and landscapes, cityscapes and dune landscapes. His experimentation in the medium during this period are now considered milestones in early 20th-century Dutch printmaking.
Secondly (between 1920 and 1930) he produced visionary apocalyptic work which we’ll cover in part 2 of this post.
In this final picture (below) Aarts has added some mythological narrative (the satyr, the birds, the women in robes) to what would otherwise be an everyday rustic scene with wheatfield reapers. Perhaps this is a kind of segway, a transition. Aarts will eventually leave these everyday working scenes (and reality) way behind to plunge into apocolyptic fantasy. See the next (Part 2) post.