Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Jos van den Berg, little master

Josua Michiel (Jos) van den Berg

Dutch painter and graphic artist

Probably the first work of art I ever bought was this academic drawing by Jos van den Berg in the mid 1970’s when I was a student and stumbled over it in a pawnshop. It has been over our piano ever since and I tease visitors who enjoy the pictures on our walls it was commissioned by my grandfather (who would have loved this story) and the model was my grandmother.

In around 1924 she and my grandfather made a handsome couple, but she surely never posed as model. Born nr. 11 of 12 children she had the courage marrying her love, in 1918, a non catholic. Which was the reason she was excommunicated by all but two of her pious brothers and sisters. She died last of all her family with a distinct view of aversion on religion.

Born a dwarf Josua (Jos) lovingly was called Josje by his colleagues, his size never stood in the way developing a successful career as an artist. Like it did not for that other small but famous artist Henri Toulouse Lautrec (1864-1901).

The nude on the wall, always a nice conversation piece, probably was created when studying in Paris, Rotterdam or The Hague Art Academies he attended in the 1920's and early 1930's.

Occasionally woodcut prints by him turn up locally on the market and his paintings are auctioned regularly. Since I fundamentally refuse paying a fee for pictures that should be free and accessible to one of these commercial art-picture hustling businesses I’m limited showing those who are and without digital polluting watermarks.  

In 1964, when I seriously started collecting stamps he designed this 12c stamp. Other stamp designs by him are the 4 cent and 6 cent below but these never made it onto our envelopes. This particular set (right) was iconic for the summer of 1964.

Portrait drawing of Karel van het Reve (1921-1999), scolar and writer and “learned brother” of one of our most (some say the most) important 20th century writers Gerard (1923-2006).

Jos van den Berg was a awarded several art prices and was a well respected (portrait) painter until his death in 1978, the same year my “grandmother on the wall” moved with us to our first home, that I started my professional career and our first son was born.

All pictures borrowed freely from the internet for friendly and educational use only.  


  1. Hi Gerrie,

    I like the way you weave your family history into your essay. Your grandmother was a handsome woman. Cat stamps! Maybe I'll start collecting them after I fill my walls with art.


    1. Like a stream of consciousness and following my amazing journey through the world of beautiful and/or interesting things. Glad you follow and like it.