The art of Jacob Bendien, 1890–1933


Corner of a Canal (1919–20).

This week’s post is another by Sander Bink about a Dutch artist whose work may be unfamiliar to those outside the Netherlands. Jacob Bendien was certainly new to me. My thanks again to Sander for the post.

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Jacob Bendien, born in Amsterdam in 1890, was one of the pioneers of abstract art (“absolut art” as Bendien and kindred artistic spirits called it) but is nevertheless little known in the Anglophone world. In the Netherlands he is not ignored or forgotten since he is mentioned in most overviews of early Dutch abstract art. Bendien’s work belongs to a somewhat later period than the other Dutch artists in this series but can be related thematically via his roots in the mystical/Symbolist art from around 1900.

Although Bendien was an early admirer of Mondrian’s art, his work differs from Neo-plasticism in its use of lines and round forms instead of bars and straight lines.


Composition (1912); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.


Peinture I (1912); Centraal Museum, Utrecht.

Two examples of Bendien’s early abstractions are the graceful oil-on-canvas Composition from 1912, and the slightly Surrealist portrait Peinture I from the same year.


Amsterdam Canal (1916).

Somewhere between Surrealism, Modernism and Symbolism is the lithograph Amsterdam Canal which could just as well be a décor for some German Expressionist movie from the 1920s.


Seven Masks (1917); Museum Belvédère, Heerenveen.

Surreal and Redon-like is his chalk drawing Seven Masks from 1917.


Melancholy (1917).

Around 1916 Bendien made some drawings which seem to be directly inspired by Dutch Decadent-Symbolist artist Carel de Nerée (see this Dutch article) of which his self-portrait Melancholy is a fine example.



More realist but quite endearing is his Musician lithograph from the early 1920s.

As far as I know the last Bendien exhibition was in Utrecht in 1985. His work is hard to find and rarely offered on sale although if one is lucky one can find his lithographs.

Sander Bink

Previously on { feuilleton }
The art of Henricus Jansen, 1867–1921
The art of Antoon van Welie, 1866–1956
The art of Simon Moulijn, 1866–1948
René Gockinga revisited
Gockinga’s Bacchanal and an unknown portrait of Fritz Klein
More from the Decadent Dutch

René Gockinga revisited


Presenting another guest post by Sander Bink concerning drawings by Dutch artists from the early decades of the 20th century, several of which show a distinct Beardsley influence. There’s also more than a little Harry Clarke in some of the details, especially the large Salomé picture below. Sander examines the provenance.

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In our ongoing research into the influence of Aubrey Beardsley and Carel de Nerée in Dutch art of the early twentieth century, René Gockinga must be one of the most elusive. We wrote about him earlier but in the meantime we spoke to someone who has known him in the latter years of his life (he died 1962 in Amsterdam), she could not tell us more about the whereabouts of his early Beardsley-esque works. His more traditional Indonesian paintings from the 1930s sometime turn up at auction and I have also seen some samples of his post-WWII abstract paintings.

But of course, it’s the early, ‘decadent’ work, we’re most interested in. The RKD (Netherlands Institute of Art History) has pictures of about five of these, for the time being, lost drawings. So the Klein portrait was of course a great find. We were quite content and never dreamed of finding more unknown Gockinga’s (we do not know the whereabouts of the Salomé reproduced in the earlier post).

So one can image our surprise when we recently received an email from an art lover from Florida who had stumbled upon three drawings by Gockinga. At an Atlanta, Georgia antique show of all places! But then again: Gockinga has lived in New York from 1924 till 1932 or possibly 1938. At some point he might have sold his early work?

However it is, these are great and as far as we know never before seen examples of a quite talented but also quite obscure and neglected Dutch artist from the period. I suspect the main reason for this neglect could be due to the nature of his work which was probably too homo-erotic and pornographic for the (Dutch) public. As far as we know, he only had one exhibition where his Beardsley- and De Nerée influenced work was shown. That took place summer 1917 at the d’Audretsch gallery, The Hague. This  gallery which owned a large collection of work by De Nerée and Gockinga must have seen his work there. Otherwise they could have seen his work someplace else at the early De Nerée exhibitions which took place 1910–1917.


In the first drawing presented here the De Nerée influence is apparent in the use of the golden painted background, a technique De Nerée applied in several works from around 1903, like La Promeneuse (below; collection Meentwijck).

Continue reading “René Gockinga revisited”

Weekend links 233


Alchemical Stone (2014) by Daniel Lasso Casas. Via full fathom five.

• “I am unsure if this reality is an everyday one. We don’t know if the universe belongs to a realist genre or a fantastic one, because if, as idealists believe, everything is a dream, then what we call reality is essentially oneiric.” Jorge Luis Borges in 1984 in conversation with Argentinian poet and essayist Osvaldo Ferrari.

• “I am transgender, so ‘he’ is not appropriate and ‘she’ is problematic. I’m what I think of as pure transgender.” Antony Hegarty talks to Cian Traynor about Turning, a new DVD and album project.

Unearthing Forgotten Horrors 2014 is a weekend festival of rural weirdness at the Star and Shadow Cinema, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

Henry Darger, one of the most celebrated examples of an outsider artist (see: Vivian Girls), has been uniformly ignored by the literary firmament. Despite the success of his artwork, none of his fiction manuscripts have seen print. The language of literature is the language of privilege, in which even the stories of the working class are regularly clad in a bourgeois prose. The language of literature cannot be extricated from its white, genteel roots. Those of us without access to education are welcome to practice, but we must come in from the cold, adopt the house language. We must be civilized, scrubbed clean. Naiveté has no place in the colosseum of words.

Ravi Mangla on Coming in from the Cold: Outsider Art in Literature

Carel de Nerée tot Babberich en Henri van Booven, a collection of Beardsley-like drawings by a neglected Dutch artist.

Forever Butt is a new collection of the best of recent issues of BUTT magazine, still the best print mag for gay men.

Anne Billson’s guide to Brussels, another European city I’d like to visit some day.

• At BibliOdyssey: Schönschreibmeister, a calligraphy master’s album.

Third Ear Band live (and in colour!) on French TV in 1970.

• Mix of the week: Secret Thirteen mix 132 by Spatial.

• The Internet Archive now has an Internet Arcade.

Crazy Cat Lady Clothing

The Pattern Library

Stone Circle (1969) by Third Ear Band | Sacred Stones (1992) by Sheila Chandra | Stoned Circular I (1996) by Coil

Wildeana 12


The Wilde Years (2000), a poster by Jonathan Barnbrook for an exhibition at the Barbican Centre, London.

Continuing an occasional series. Recent (and not-so-recent) Wildean links.

Sander Bink writes that Beardsley-esque artist Carel de Nerée tot Babberich was in Paris in the summer of 1900, the summer of the Exposition Universelle which has been a subject of many posts here. Did he meet Oscar Wilde? It’s a possibility.

• “Was Oscar Wilde’s outlandish personality more influential than his writing?” asks George Woodcock.

These were the years when Zola was at the height of his international fame but Wilde pans the fashionable Naturalist school by contrasting it with another phenomenon that was then sweeping through Europe: Russian fiction. One of the small gems of these volumes is a cluster of very interesting and little-known articles on modern Russian novels. Wilde rated Turgenev, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky far above “the obscene brood of pseudo-realists which roosts in the Cloaca maxima of France” and welcomed their influence on modern literature. He was certainly among the first critics to review the English translations of Crime and Punishment and Injury and Insult, praising Dostoevsky’s command of detail and ability to probe into “the most hidden springs of life”.

Stefano Evangelista on Wilde’s world of journalism

• “An idea that is not dangerous is not worthy of being called an idea at all.” A print by ObviousState.

Robert McCrum looks at The Picture of Dorian Gray for the Guardian‘s 100 Best Novels.

• Oscar Wilde provides the Pinterest legions with a thousand and one quotes.

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The Oscar Wilde archive

More from the Decadent Dutch


Illustration by Otto Verhagen from Yolanda – Het Boek van Bloei (1931) by Nan Copijn.

Would-be Decadents is perhaps a better label, the Decadent ship having set sail across an absinthe-tinted sea by the time these artists were putting pen to paper. Their drawings are another set of scarce images forwarded by Sander Bink who maintains the Rond1900 site. (See this earlier post for further examples.) Sandor also sent artwork details which I’ve quoted below. In addition to yet more overt Beardsley influence (the Verhagen above and René Gockinga’s woman with a candle) there’s also a striking Harry Clarke influence in the second Gockinga drawing which is closer to Clarke’s idiosyncratic style than (for example) these later drawings by Cardwell Higgins. Seeing one artist borrow the mannerisms of another is a common thing; far less common is finding an artist who adopts different styles the way Gockinga does. Incidentally, the Couperin novel mentioned below was published with a typically elegant cover design by Symbolist artist Jan Toorop.

(Thanks again Sander!)


Otto Verhagen. Illustration (not used as such) for Couperus’ Psyche (1898). Engraving, ca 1913. Collection Sander Bink. This is a personage from the story but to me it looks somewhat like an Oscar Wilde portrait!
Illustration for the very popular fairy tale for adults Psyche by Louis Couperus (1863–1923). You might have heard of Couperus: Oscar Wilde appreciated his decadent, somewhat homosexual, novel Noodlot (1890), translated as Footsteps of fate. Some letters were exchanged. Couperus’ wife Elisabeth translated Dorian Gray in 1893. (First Dutch translation.)


Sortie (1904) by Carel de Nerée tot Babberich. Museum of Modern Art, Arnhem (from De Neree catalogue, 1986). Verhagen’s Dorian Gray seems to be influenced by this.


Woman with candle by René Gockinga, ca 1916. Current location unknown.


Indonesian lady dancing [as I call it—SB] by René Gockinga. From the Indonesian satirical-political periodical De Zweep [The Whip] 1922.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Further echoes of Aubrey
A Wilde Night
Echoes of Aubrey
After Beardsley by Chris James
Illustrating Poe #1: Aubrey Beardsley
The art of Karel de Nerée tot Babberich, 1880–1909
Beardsley’s Rape of the Lock
The Savoy magazine
Beardsley at the V&A
Merely fanciful or grotesque
Aubrey Beardsley’s musical afterlife
Aubrey by John Selwyn Gilbert
“Weirdsley Daubery”: Beardsley and Punch
Alla Nazimova’s Salomé