THE ARTISTS’ COLONYDe Kolonie Blaricum

In 2008 the Dooyewaard Foundation acquired a plot of land and buildings in Blaricum from Vera Gerson Lohman, daughter of painter Theo Lohmann. The foundation bought this plot, situated between the Schapendrift and Eemnesserweg, in order to preserve a group of remarkably authentic studios dating back to the early 20th century. One of the studios, from 1905, was used by Piet Mondrian in 1916-17, a crucial period in his artistic development. Another studio turned out to have been the studio of Laren School painter Ferdinand Hart Nibbrig and Anna Sluijter thereafter. Over the years the foundation has made efforts to restore all these buildings and to relocate the three wooden studios on the premises using the traditional method of lifting them. In quite a spectacular manner the studios have been moved centimetre by centimetre by rolling them onto newly created basements. We therefore now have three studios with early 20th century exteriors combined with modern living and working quarters. For an impression of the restoration click here.

More recently the foundation acquired a studio only a few 100 metres from the colony premises. This was the studio of Bob ten Hoope (1920-2014). Bob travelled between France and the Netherlands and when here this was the studio where he did his drawing, painting and etching.

 

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

 

COLONIES AND HUTS IN MAUVE COUNTRY

Towards the end of the 19th and continuing into the 20th century, the villages of Laren and Blaricum attracted a great variety of people. Having gained fame as ‘Mauve country’ due to Anton Mauve’s popular paintings and the flourishing Laren School of painters the area was for many years an attraction to artists. What started out as setting for moorland scenes and farmhouse interiors proved to be an equally inspiring source for new and even avant-garde movements. Many Dutch and foreign artists worked here during those years. And it was not just the visual arts which originated there. The villages drew a wide range of people from literary and intellectual circles. People intrigued by new perceptions of principles and life-philosophies flocked there as well. This resulted in a bright mix of artists, scientists, Christian anarchists, theosophists, free thinkers, world reformers, nudists, war refugees and many who just wanted to leave the encroaching urbanization behind and who felt they could experience ‘back to nature’ there.

With Walden the colony founded by Frederik van Eeden in Bussum as example, Professor Jacob van Rees founded a colony in 1899 alongside the road leading from Laren to Blaricum. It was here, centred around a large colonial residence and several wooden huts, that residents aimed to create an ideal society with their Colony of the International Brotherhood. The colony as such was short-lived, but in the meantime the ‘import’ into these, by origin, farming villages had discovered working and living in huts and dozens were built at the time. Ru Mauve, son of painter Anton, and Theo Rueter became famous hut builders. The most beautiful ones were in fact small country houses with wavy thatched roofs, but most were simple huts made of tarred wood. These huts were used as living quarters but also as artist’s studios and it is in this capacity that a lively trade emerged. Built simply without deep foundations, the huts were regularly picked up and moved. Either in its entirety on a farm cart or taken apart in numbered planks and rebuilt on a new location. These original simple huts were still to be found in Blaricum and Laren far into the 20th century. But now that these villages have reached the upper echelon of desirable, and therefore expensive, top locations in the Netherlands hardly anything is left of this cultural and architectural heritage.   

THE LOHMANN PROPERTY

The Colony plot was bought from Mrs Vera Gerson Lohman, daughter of artist Theo Lohmann (1880-1963). This plot has been in the hands of the Lohmann family for nearly a century. Theo Lohmann bought the first plot and a stone house including a shed(still there) and horses stable(now gone) in 1918 from Wim Oversteegen, who owned a nursery in the meadows at the Eemnesserweg. The house, shed and stable had been built for Oversteegen by local joiner Wim Kokje in 1906. During the twenties Lohmann gradually acquired more land up to the current dimension and three separate huts/studios which he placed on his land. In 1922 he bought ‘La Petite Espinette’ which had been in use as a studio annex to Huize Parva at the Torenlaan in Blaricum (now Heideweg 10). In 1924 it was a studio from Laren from what is now the Sint Janstraat 34b which had been used by amongst others Ferdinand Hart Nibbrig and Anna Sluijter . And finally in 1927 one of the old wooden huts out of the former colony grounds owned by professor van Rees (now near Torenlaan 64). A 1917 drawing and an old photograph revealed that Piet Mondrian worked in this hut.

A plot with several separate properties offered the family great flexibility. Parts were rented out in dire times and during the Second World War it played a prominent role in the local resistance. The Lohmann family has helped numerous people in hiding survive the war by providing shelter in any imaginable location. After the war Theo Lohmann received a Resistance Medal for Artists for their efforts. Daughter Vera met her future husband Ernst Gerson during those resistance efforts. They changed their name into Gerson Lohman and built a stone annex connecting La Petite Espinette and the Mondrian hut to accommodate their four children. One of their children’s ex partners still lives in the original stone house at the Eemnesserweg side, although it was thoroughly renovated in the seventies.                                    

The three studios, which were not protected by zoning or building laws, are still in situ in their nearly original state. The purchase of the entire plot and properties was completed mainly to prevent this last piece of cultural heritage from being razed to the ground to make way for the construction of new villas.