Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Jan Visser and Fok Spies

Two days ago Folkert Matthijs (Fok) Spies passed away. This small posting in memory to his well spend life on earth.

A few weeks ago I discovered this 1916 woodblock by not very known Dutch artist and mainly remembered as a painter Jan Visser (Groningen, 1856-1936) It's numbered: No.3. I don't know if he created more woodblock prints. I certainly have never come across any but I've found some examples of other work that I will show you in due time. Any way, I like this print very much and I think it is, considering it is 1916 and Dutch, pretty unique and very original. I have been to the sea in a rumbling cart, my granddad and my parents have, my sons have and my grand daughters.  
Funny how things seem to happen simultaniously, going through old family photo's just today, writing an obituary. Or is it serendipity?

Fok Spies reached the blessed age of 85, of which forty as my father-in-law. Besides he was truly a friend. He lived life according to his motto: Live your life in soberness but let it be rich in feasts, celebrating each and every day and each and every opportunity. 
Here are his first (in the rumbling cart) and his last portrait. Amazing to see how the old man is already visible in the child. And how the child, after a life time, is still visible in the old man. In between these pictures he was a toddler, a schoolboy, a student, a husband, a schoolteacher, father of five, grandfather of ten and great grandfather of 6. He visited most of Europe's countries from the North Cape to Izmir, from Leningrad to Barcelona. In a tent and later in his old and battered campervan. A true roll model to the Art of Living. 
Shortly before he died he left me these two pencil drawings by an artist who was an amateur. S. Kraay is he all knew and it is all I know. The artist a friend and colleague of his elder brother who died before him. 

It is showing the old Church in the village of Soest. Along: the old Church road (Kerkepad), where just a few hunderd meters from the church he and his brother were born in the 1920's as the sons of the local police constable. Where as children they played. Where he will have walked every day of his childhood to school. Where he will be burried in the family grave. Beginning and ending. I found an older painting of the same spot, probably of the same  renovated and repaired over the years dwellings that have long since disappeared. 
The wind mill, I don't know, but I quess it's Soest or somewhere nearby too, although I couldn't match it with existing 2 wind mills in the village. Maybe a Dutch reader one day will recognize the artist S. Kraay and the location. I like them very much. To this day my thoroughly analog father-in- law had left no footprints in the Internet. Today I left these. 
Added information july 6th and proof of the tremendous powers of the Internet: Artist S. Kraaij was identified by an observing reader as Stephanus Kraaij born 1904 in Echteld. He was a trained artist who was living 1940-1950 in Soest. Echteld (only 35 km away) is also the genealogical homestead of the Spies family since 1650 when an immigrant from the Pfalz (a German province) was first recorded in the village.


  1. A lovely way to mark his passing.

  2. That was a very nice post. After his having traveled all over the world he probably hadn't thought of leaving his footprints on the Internet. I am sure his attitude was "take only pictures, leave only footprints". And now, through you, he has left pictures.

  3. Thank you Milton. A Kodak photo camera, a colour TV (1980's) which was mainly switched off but for special events and the 8 o'clock news and a wireless (not a cell-)telephone were the few modernities he enjoyed. But even without these he would have been equally happy.

  4. Hi,
    I am the great-granddaughter of the Dutch painter J. Visser Jr. (Groningen 1856 - Zandvoort 1938). Are you sure this woodblock print was made by him? There are 2 other Dutch painters with the name Jan Visser: (1) Alkmaar 1879 - 1961 Haarlem and (2) Rotterdam 1897 - Rotterdam 1968. This is a link (I think you have to copy/paste it) to a forum discussion topic about the 3 painters (in Dutch):,2896,15588&docid=TzVCLK6HcBjShM&imgurl=,r:5,s:0,i:88

    If you scroll down the page you can see Jan Visser from Haarlem's signature on the last painting. I think there is a lot of ressemblance with the signature on your woodblock.



  5. Dank je Natascha, ik denk inderdaad dat de Alkmaarse/Haarlemse Jan Visser de juiste is. Hij heeft ook een opleiding houtgravure gehad. Ik zal een correctie maken.

  6. Laat het leven sober zijn maar rijk aan feesten. Dat was inderdaad het motto van Fok Spies. Een aantal jaren heb ik hem gekend. Een mooi man. Om in ere te gedenken.
    Leo Knol, Poznan PL

    1. Hallo Leo ("de jonge hond" volgens Fok), een stem uit het verleden, je collega's Astrid Beers en Majanka waren op de begravenis. De karikatuur destijds door jou getekend is nu bij ons na het opruimen van zijn kantoor. Bedankt voor je reactie en de groeten van Hannie Spies en dochter Aya.

    2. Hallo Gerrie, het bestaan van de karikatuur was ik vergeten maar goed om te weten dat het de tijd heeft doorstaan. :) Breng mijn hartelijke groeten over aan Hannie en Aya. Ik hoop dat met allen het naar wens en in goede gezondheid gaat.

    3. Ik zal het doen Leo, bedankt voor je reactie, schoonmoeder Hannie (bijna 93)vond het erg leuk van je te horen. Groeten, Gerbrand