Closer to Jan Heyse

The Zeeland-born artist Jan Heyse (1882 -1954) made extremely refined, detailed portraits and landscapes that are pleasing to the eye and beloved by many. It is high time to dedicate an exhibition to this perfectionist. Thanks in part to a large loan from the Heyse family, the exhibition features a wide range of finished works and working sketches, which provide a unique insight into his way of working. Come closer!

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Heyse was born in Zierikzee and was educated at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten (State Academy of Fine Arts) in Amsterdam. Following his adventure in the capital, he was drawn back to his native Zeeland, and settled in Veere on the island of Walcheren. Armed with a sketchbook and pencil, he cycled through the area recording what he saw, from historic buildings to animals and people. He also regularly portrayed his wife and children, nieces and nephews and the family’s housekeeper. His favourite subjects were beautiful young women. An obvious subject for many artists, but this choice says something about his penchant for perfection and love of clean lines. He was not affiliated with any particular art movement, but chose his own path, experimenting with the most diverse techniques, all of which he mastered flawlessly. He created unique compositions by adding decorative elements, including personally selected fabrics. He returned to certain themes again and again, developing and refining his technique with each iteration.


It is quite special that Heyse opted to live in his native province rather than in the bustling capital. He was certainly not alone in being attracted to life in Zeeland at that time. From the end of the nineteenth century, the Walcheren coast in particular was an increasingly popular destination among the social elite of the Netherlands and further afield. Walcheren also attracted artists, such as Jan Toorop. The annual selling exhibitions in a building close to Domburg’s bathing pavilion, which represented all the  artists working on Walcheren, including Jan Heyse, were legendary.