Persona September, 1st 2022 by

World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 379 - Ella van Schaik

ella van schaik – 1

World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 379 – Ella van Schaik
Ella van Schaik is the Dutch cat artist. In her beautiful home on the Denneweg I see her current cat: the red male Koekie. For 40 years she had two Siamese.
When the last Siamese died, she wondered if she wanted another Siamese. She decided to get a quiet cat. “Siamese are nice, but also very busy cats. They hang around your neck all day long. They scream all the time and as they get older they get louder.”

ella van schaik – 2

Cookie and Bob
Now she has Koekie, a very sweet animal, and a lot calmer. He only meows when absolutely necessary. Koekie has a tabby coat. Ella: “A lot of people think these are just stripes, but it’s like a fingerprint on people. There are a number of standard patterns in tabby coats: marbled, dotted and striped.”
Within these three designs, the cats differ from each other, but the basic pattern is the same. A while ago she saw the movie ‘A Streetcat Named Bob’ in the cinema. It was about a red stray cat in England. “I noticed that multiple cats were used to play this role. When I went to find out how many, it turned out to be ten. Most people don’t see that, they think Bob is one cat. I saw that the drawing in the fur was different every time.”

ella van schaik – 3

The Cat Quartet
Not so long ago the fifth edition of her Cat Quartet (‘Poezenkwartet’) was published. They are really beautiful pictures, and also very humorous. The drawings – in black and white – are based on etchings. When she got the request for a new edition, she wanted to do it, but in an up-to-date version. “I wanted a nicer version. I had kept the zinc plates with the etchings. By applying etching wax again, I was able to draw on it again. If you compare the old and new quartet, you see that a lot of ears have been moved, legs have been turned and coats are more detailed.”
Some images were outdated and have therefore disappeared, such as those of the cat on television in the quartet ‘Warm spots’. “Cats could lie comfortably, warmly, on a TV set. Nowadays that is no longer possible with those flat televisions. A new quartet is ‘Media’, with WiFi, the selfie, the laptop and the mouse.”

ella van schaik – 4

How did Ella actually become a cat artist?
After her education at the Royal Academy of Art, she started teaching in secondary education. After twelve years, she gave up on that. “I went back into the art world. I thought it would be good to master more skills and that’s how I learned to etch. I started teaching at the Free Academy and working at Galerie the Javastraat.

ella van schaik – 5

From 1964 to 1971, Albert Vogel, brother of the famous actress Ellen Vogel, led the Internationale Galerie Orez at 17 Javastraat in The Hague, together with Leo Verboon. If you flipped Orez you got Zero, a movement that included most of the gallery’s artists. In 1971, when the Zero movement had gained international fame and the two directors of gallery Orez could not agree on the new policy to follow, the Vogel-Verboon duo split up. A year later, the International Project Studio Ornis (Greek for bird) started on Javastraat in The Hague, now led by Vogel alone. Many New Hague School (‘Nieuwe Haagse School’) members exhibited here. Among others: Kees van Bohemen, Theo Bitter, Jan Cremer, Lotti van der Gaag, Willem Hussem, Nol Kroes, Joop Kropff, Theo Mooyman and Gerard Verdijk. Ella worked for Galerie Orez / Ornis from 1970 to 1982. In those twelve years she has worked with most members of the New Hague School.

ella van schaik – 8

One day she put one of her recent etchings against the baseboard. On these etchings stood Siamese cats. Someone came into the gallery and asked if that etching was for sale. Ella: “I thought for a while and then said, ‘Sure, the etching is yours for 95 guilders.'” Another followed, and another, and then there was a whole trade. Ella was fine with it. Finally she had to live off it and had said goodbye to two tenured teaching positions.
The cats got into Norbert Buchsbaum’s catalog. He had a gallery in the Kazernestraat, gallery Arta. He had the etchings printed in an edition, no fewer than 75 pieces. This etching was published in the newspaper through Dolf Welling, art critic. This was followed by a photographer from Libelle. Contact was made and Libelle published an interview with Ella. Libelle then started a sales campaign where readers could purchase her prints for 45 guilders each. Henk van der Vet, screen printer at Noordeinde made 500 screen prints.

ella van schaik – 11

An ideal beast
Ella: “Everything went smoothly after that. You have to be lucky a few times in your life. A rat doesn’t sell. There is not one type of dog, there is such a wide variety, from a Dachshund to a Bouvier. A cat is universal. The cat face resembles a human face. The distance between the eyes is the same as in humans, the nose also has the same proportion as a human nose. The only difference with humans are the ears. Nobody realizes that. It is an ideal beast, the size of a baby. People have dogs to impress, a cat is there for you.”

ella van schaik – 12

It went on and on. A cat calendar appeared in 1981. She signed at Ulysses bookstore down the street from her. This was followed by long articles in many newspapers: from Binnenhof, Haagsche Courant, NRC-Handelsblad, Telegraaf, Parool, Het Vaderland, Utrechts Nieuwsblad to AD and Trouw. She was even invited to cat shows to hand out prizes. And then came the Cat Quartet.
Various cat drawings and etchings hang on the wall in her salon. And also pictures of cats. Three are by the well-known Hague photographer Gerard Fieret. “I bought a photo of him at an exhibition in the Haagse Kunstkring for 195 guilders. He was so pleased with it that I got two more cat pictures of him the next day.”

ella van schaik – 15

The drawing studio
We go upstairs to her drawing studio. The documentation is housed in five large-format ring binders filled with newspaper and magazine clippings and all kinds of documents. I see a very young Ella in full color, smiling broadly in a chair. Postcards of cats, a flat marbled cat. On the cupboard the skeleton of a cat. Her version of Bart van der Leck’s cat: “In the Mondriaan year, 2017, I turned it into a real cat. With four different backgrounds, one of them is the Victory Boogie Woogie.”
We go up another floor, to the room with the etching press. I see the etching press and the etching plates. She prefers to work with zinc, which is a fairly soft material. She uses nitric acid for the etching. A maximum of 75 prints can be printed per plate. Ella: “The etchings are the most typical of me as an artist. They are my expressions. I made a name for myself with that, more than with the drawings.”

ella van schaik – 16

Finally, what is her philosophy?
Ella: “I can actually draw anything. In the five years that I spent at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague I learned everything, but it’s best if you specialize. Once you specialize, you stand out from the rest. You get better at it and people recognize your work. You work on your fame as well as on your own abilities.
The opposite is the work of an amateur. How do you recognize an amateur? The fact that he thinks he can do everything and that he does everything. My advice and philosophy is: Limit yourself, then you can perfect yourself.”
Ella van Schaik is an active artist member of the Hague Art Circle (Haagse Kunstkring) and of Pulchri Studio. You can contact her via her website and make a studio visit by appointment. She also makes commissioned cat portraits.
1) Bart van der Leck cat 1, 2 – 5) paintings painted with tempera format 20×30 cm, etchings are 30×40 cm, the drawing is syberian chalk 30×40 cm, 6) drawings and paintings, 7) portrait Ella van Schaik 2022, 8) portrait Ella van Schaik by Paul Citroen, 9 – 10) Cat Quartet 

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