I made Johanna especially for the exhibition US FERLOSSER portraits of Domela. On November 18, 2019 it will be exactly 100 years since Ferdinand Jacobus Domela Nieuwenhuis past away. Museum Heerenveen invited artist to contribute work to this exhibition.
That Domela married four times and his four wives all named Johanna fascinated me. The painting not only represent the four Johanna's as well as women in general. I painted Johanna on the basis of an old photo, isolated from her daily environment. Painted in transparent layers of egg-tempera, a type of paint made by mixing pigments with egg yolk. Through the use of egg-tempera in transparent layers, and by a very sober use of color, the atmosphere of bygone times is created. The dress seems to stand on its own, as if the wearer herself has disappeared. It is a subtle game of presence and absence. The sharp contours of the clothes suggest a restriction on movement, reminiscent of a corset. The absence of faces as a main human attribute leaves space for the exploration. In my work individual identities remain mysterious and the past is palpable.
Ferdinand Jacobus Domela Nieuwenhuis (31 December 1846 – 18 November 1919) was the Netherlands' first prominent socialist. He was a Lutheran preacher who, after he lost his faith, started a political fight for workers. He was the first socialist in the Dutch parliament. In 1881, Nieuwenhuis became the frontman of the Sociaal-Democratische Bond (SDB), a socialist movement from various local movements. In 1888, he was elected to the House of Representatives, one of the two chambers that make up the Dutch parliament. He was the first and, at the time, the only socialist elected into parliament. He stayed there until 1891, when he decided not to run again. The SDB could not come to agreement, and Nieuwenhuis himself was disappointed with parliamentary methods. Nieuwenhuis moved more and more toward anarchist beliefs. Many did not agree with this shift, and started the Sociaal Democratische Arbeiders Partij (SDAP) in 1894, a more reformist party. In the same year, the SDB was declared illegal. Nieuwenhuis kept publishing and fighting for the social-anarchistic cause. He died on 18 November 1919.