Jan Sirks is a young Dutch artist in search of his artistic identity at the start of the 20th Century just when art is on a threshold of complete transformation. When an Old Master pulls him into an all-consuming tango with the medium of etching, his path looks set. Jan captures the shipping activities on the docks, in the canals and the large working ports of Rotterdam. He is fascinated with the rapid transformation of the shipping world from sail to steam and from back-breaking work to mechanization. The working ports become his home. Jan finds an unexpected ally in his model, the headstrong and visionary pianist Hillegonda, whose charm and determination ensure the doors to galleries and private collectors are pushed open to his modern and candid signature in black and white. When World War I strips humanity of its veneer, Jan is confronted with a painful awareness of man's duality that destroys his trust and swings his compass toward the need to find his personal truth. He delves deeply into meditation but becomes haunted by his visions. At the disturbing edge of his personal reality, he looks to farewell the harmony of his black and white etchings and transforms his realism into esoteric visions and abstractions of colour and form. An encounter in Amsterdam with like-minded artists results in the establishment of the Dutch avant-garde art movement De Branding. Their manifesto is written in pencil to reflect their love of freedom of expression. Although their individual interpretations of the meaning of freedom of expressions differ, they share a love of individualism. The members fight to escape jury-led exhibitions, the emerging hatred toward independent artistic explorations and for the right to exhibit in their own city, Rotterdam. Over time, Jan realises that the initial good intention is derailed by the dogma of a mere few. Underneath the veneer of sincerity of fellow-artists, critics and curators is a cesspool of vendettas and personal interest that aims to control art. When the philosophical discussions of his fellow artists, members of De Branding and De Stijl ,make art the savior of mankind and the artist the hero, Jan leaves his studio, his meditations and Theosophical Studies and steps into the battleground of the modern art world to fight for what he truly believes. Where Jan sees a journey toward ultimate freedom of expression, others see an uncontrollable expression that requires censorship. As his life's compass swings from abstraction to social justice and the need for sanity, Jan battles the crossroads between fashion and his soul. Just when he believes his deliberations are beginning to provide him with answers he is confronted with an even bigger dilemma. The Dutch Artist and His Muse tells the story of the quiet revolutionary artist Jan Sirks and his muse as he paints a unique canvas of life and helps pave the way toward artistic freedom of expression
Yosay Briels is a new author to enter the historical novel genre. Her writing is inspired by true stories about artists and their art. Her debut novel The Dutch Artist and His Muse is based on the Rotterdam artist Jan Sirks and his muse Hillegonda. Yosay has a BA in Art History and French Literature and is fascinated with the context of art. In order to define her characters, she learns as much as she can to be able to re-create their lives. She visits their cities and ports, listens to their music, reads their books and the plays they may have seen, studies their fashion and mannerisms, their foods, their homes and places of work, their hygiene habits, their perfumes, their foods and drinks, the structure of their day, their social life, their politics, reads their newspapers, their books, their exhibition reviews and pours over their letters and diaries. She was a founding member of the charitable trust that created and published the successful Harbour Kitchens cookbook. Her sketch “Insight, Hindsight and Foresight” was performed at the opening of the Christchurch Innovation Incubator in New Zealand. When she is not researching, reading or writing, Yosay is a portfolio manager and curator. She is working on her second novel. It is about an artist. She lives in on a hill in Lyttelton, New Zealand with her husband and a slightly insane Burmese cat.
A very insightful and moving story about the artist Jan Sirks. It provides clear insights into the personal life of the artist and provides an interesting perspective about the battles of modern artists in the beginning of the 20th century. The book is hard to put down, it is a page-turner and it is hard not to fall in love with the main character and his colourful muse. I highly recommend it.
Intriguing real life story and narrative of a known living artist of his time. Great presentation of the personal life of a family of the time and with enough suspense and concern of the trials and challenges of the times... to keep me ready for more. Putting Art, Artists, Wars, Economics and life challenges into a very good read!