Persona July, 13th 2023 by

  World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 423 - Fred van der Gon Netscher

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World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 423 – Fred van der Gon Netscher
Nature and man. That is what the paintings of Fred van der Gon Netscher are about. He also makes many drawings and cartoons. He knows how to portray people and animals strikingly. But what do you want, with an illustrious painting ancestor from the Golden Age, after whom even a street in The Hague is named.

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When I visit Fred in the Tomatenstraat I see a number of examples hanging on the wall. The characteristic heads of writer Marieke Lucas Rijneveld and actress Monic Hendrix, Jean-Paul Belmondo, the French film star, Corinne Drewery, the singer of Swing Out Sister on black platform boots and a red, white, blue and orange scarf and on the far right a colorful work by the eighties band The Cure with lead singer Robert Smith.

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Fred van der Gon Netscher (75): “In the last ten years I have come to appreciate the eighties bands, such as The Cure, Depeche Mode and Talk Talk more and more, while in terms of age I tend to belong to the seventies bands. But I also love those, starting with Soft Machine, Led Zeppelin and many other symphonic rock artists.”

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The music is a constant factor. “When I make a portrait, whether it’s Bach or a pop artist, I experience the music as I paint. When I make it, I also feel a kind of gratitude for the artist. Often I don’t know in advance what it will be. With the portrait of The Cure, I knew it had to be colorful. The process of painting itself is also important to me. I like to play with color.” This can be seen in the portrait of the Swing Out Sister singer. “She is stylish and sings pleasant ‘feel good music’, to which her partner, keyboardist Andy Connell, plays a major role: pop with a jazzy ‘feel’, sometimes with Brazilian influences and interspersed with soundtrack-like elements. This kind of music, jazz, Brazilian, is a bit of a guilty pleasure.”
Another constant factor is nature. Lots of birds and deer. “I am a nature person. It must be birds that appeal to me. In the fall I will automatically paint deer.”

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Jan Sluijters
He made his drawings throughout his working life, but he only started painting after his retirement, eleven years ago. “I often paint in Paul Versteegh’s studio. Things happen there playfully. A painter I appreciate is Jan Sluijters, especially his women appeal to me. One day I thought ‘I’m going to make a woman with a blue hat’. I didn’t think much more about it. When the work was done, it had become a woman with a blue hat in a red dress, I thought it was successful and posted it on Facebook as a joke. There were many reactions to this, including from a well-known actor who wanted to buy it. I had to think about that for a moment. I did it because I knew the person. He told me later that he was surprised I asked so little for the work.”

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Although he describes himself as half amateur / half serious, he notices that the drive is growing. “I would like to sit behind the easel more often. It is important to me that portraits speak, especially the eyes must speak. I made a small portrait of a journalist with something in her eyes that marked her. ‘It doesn’t seem exact, but it’s still right’, I thought at the time.” Usually he uses oil paint, sometimes also acrylic paint when he works on paper and cardboard.

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Cartoons and drawings
In his cartoons and drawings, made with pen, fine-liner and watercolor colored pencil, the people are easy to recognize, whether they are living persons or historical figures. “It is often occasional work, following weddings and parties, I have also made a lot for the magazine of the Ministry of Culture (VWS/WVC/OCW), the Cultuurbarbaar.”
Although educated and graduated at the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague, Department of Illustrative Drawing (1968 -1973), Fred has never worked as an independent artist. “My first job was at the Dutch Book Club (NBC). There I made layouts. I developed my own style. I was not good at the rigid mathematical plane. I then ended up at the Ministry of Culture (WVC) in the Film Department of the Arts Directorate. One of the editors of the staff magazine (Joep Altona) occasionally asked me to write pieces and – if possible – also add an illustration. That’s how all kinds of cartoons were created and I continued that. I started writing more and more, also for other magazines. Articles, interviews with people from the art world, including Armando and Simon Vinkenoog. I liked doing it.”

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The Golden Age
Who does he admire in painting and drawing? “Jan Sluijters of course, Kees van Dongen too and the whole group of people in their fifties: Karel Appel, Corneille, Lucebert. And I also admire the naturalists, people who are very good at fine painting. I could do it myself, but then it would take me months to complete a painting. When we talk about the classics: I find Jeroen Bosch very witty, just like Jan Steen. Frans Hals is very good because of his expressive faces, the people could easily step out of the painting.” A contemporary of Frans Hals is Caspar Netscher, a portrait and genre painter. There is a street in The Hague named after him. “He is a sub-topper from the Golden Age. Far away he is related to me, just like Edith Netscher from Haarlem. She also paints and reportedly gives painting workshops in France. Oddly enough, I only met her once, when I was ten years old…”
Fred van der Gon Netscher regularly visits museums, especially the Haagse Gemeentemuseum, now called the Kunstmuseum. “Especially for the paintings, especially figurative. Abstract fascinates me less. Some art often comes across as a bit ‘contrived’ to me. There is often a high ‘clothes-of-the-emperor’ content.”

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Girl on the train
We go to look at his work, in a small room upstairs. I see portraits of Rudie Lubbers, the boxer, Robert Plant, the singer of Led Zeppelin, Johann Sebastian Bach, many birds, including a blue tit, a crested lark and a woodpecker, a woman with a bird and a sifet cat, a French village square, a self-portrait when he still had a lot of hair, lots of deer, usually duos, and sometimes bellowing, Father Time, a sunflower. And his first painting ten years ago: a girl on a train.
Down again we also take a look at his drawings and cartoons. He put them in an album. Various ministers and state secretaries in an unusual situation, runners (also Fred’s sport), friends and acquaintances on the occasion of festive occasions. And Hague Heroes like Cor van der Laak (‘And for this reason’) and Alderman Hekking (who takes the mayor by the nose).

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Finally, does Fred have a philosophical consideration? “I will not easily paint or draw things that are far from me. If I had had the talent, I would have chosen music rather than drawing. That is a form of expression that – even more than drawing – appeals to emotions and reaches people directly.”
1) woman with red dress, 2) in front of the Eiffel Tower, 3) lady with rose, 4) painting Robert Plant, 5) Woman with peonies, 6) Corinne Drewery, 7) blue tit, 8) Uithof and painting, 9) two deer in the rutting season, 10) portrait photo of Fred van de Gon Netscher 

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