Sunday, 5 May 2013

Marthe Antoine Gérardin, portrait artist

Marthe Antoine Gérardin
French portrait artist, working in Holland

This portrait of my stepfather Piet was created july 17th. 1945 and I've known it from childhood. It has been in the house of his parents and after their death it was stored in our attic for decades. It was said "to artist was a once famous French artist who drew many heads of state, royalty, musicians and stage actors”.
Reframing the drawing and researching the matter recently here’s what I’ve been able to discover. The earliest works by this artist I’ve excavated were a dozen or so early 1920 postcard portraits of French actors like the ones above. These and the latest (the portrait of Piet is by far the latest I've found)  illustrate well how she grew and developed as a portrait drawing artist.  
Nora van Rappard (? - ?), a soprano, drawn on the day she gave a recital in the Kurhaus Concert Hall Scheveningen august 30th 1931 but of whom I could find no biography and proof of just 3 recitals ever given. 

Later, in the late 1920’s (according to the  precise dates she’s left on almost all of her drawings) she appeared in society circles in the-Hague, Netherlands, portraying actors and actresses, directors, musicians, artists and painters. 
Rosette (Rosa) Manus (Amsterdam 1881 - murdered because she was considered by the Nazis "too international" in Ravensbrück 1943), Dutch pacifist and womens rights activist.
Dina Appeldoorn (1884-1938), Dutch pianist and composer. 

As a society artist, later also working in Amsterdam, and travelling between Paris and the Netherlands she must have visited Buffalo Bills (Bill Cody 1846-1917) Wild West show drawing the portrait of Lone Bear (1877- after 1940) in 1923. He was said to be an extremely handsome man.  

In 1930 Marthe Gerardin was photographed at the miss Holland elections (sitting left with hat and cigarette) together with famous Dutch painter Jan Sluyters (1881-1957) sitting right who also sat as a model for her on july 2th 1929. There's only a slight hint of color in the eye, skin and lips. 
And, a day later followed by Kees Maks (1876-1967) neglected modernist painter, a student of impressionist George Hendrik Breitner, Paris friend and colleague of Jan Sluyters (1881-1957) and Kees van Dongen (1876-1967). He frequently visited and painted the circus. He painted the French Fratellini brothers, famous, worshiped even, clowns of the Paris circus in the first two decades of the 20th century. 
Among her clients, to my own surprise I discovered Jos van den Berg (1905-1978) an artist I’ve introduced not long ago in the Blog (here*) and who like Toulouse Lautrec suffered from dwarfism.

There’s a 1927 portrait of Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999) in the Royal Academy of Musicians collections in London. But the picture, sadly, isn’t to be viewed publicly. 

Menuhin played his debut concert age 11  November 1927 in Carnegie Hall New York (the Beethoven Violin Concerto) and the rest of his life toured the world visiting the Netherlands in 1929. He sat for Gerardin’s portrait December 4th in the Amstel Hotel and played the Beethoven concerto in the Concert Gebouw dec. 17th. The illustration above is 1930. 

The Fratellini brothers in the Hague 1933 

The portraits, in color, of the French Fratellini brothers when performing in the-Hague july 9th 1933: Paolo (1877-1940), Francesco (1879-1951) and Alberto (1886-1961). Alberto's the only portrait "en face" by Gerardin no doubt because of the characteristic painted clownsface.

The portrait of Piet (Pieter Johannes Leopold) Köhler (1923-2008) is an incredibly good image of him. It was said the fee was a sack of potatoes. It was just after the liberation of the Netherlands (May 5th. 1945) and after the famine (Hongerwinter) of 1944 and young PJL having to do something with the distribution of food bonds in Amsterdam and his aunt being Charlotte Köhler (1892-1976) most celebrated actress of the Netherlands from the mid 1920’s to the early 1960’s. A possible clue to their encounter.    
These last three portraits I’ve recently discovered. Pictures kindly were send to my by the dealer in Haarlem (here*) who has them on offer. I would very much like to know the identity of these men and I’ld love to know more about the portraits, career and life of Marthe Antoine Gerardin inviting readers and passers-by to send more examples and facts for sharing.

All pictures borrowed freely from the Internet for friendly, educational and non commercial use only.

Next posting: A Gerardin relative ?


  1. Myriam Everard11 June 2013 at 14:42

    The Amsterdam City Archives holds 46 portraits by Gérardin, not only of men and women in the performing arts, but also of women politicians and feminists:

    Another woman politician in the International Institute of Social History:

    I am looking forward to your next blog on Gérardin!

    1. Dank je Myriam, ik had de entree baar de Beeldbank niet gevonden via Google. Thank you very much for sending the Links and maybe I'll do a follow up although all these portraits are accessible now through the links for readers with an interest in Marie Antoine Gerardin finding the Blog

  2. Very interesting, She was the cousin of my grand-mother.

  3. Er is op dit moment een portret van haar hand te koop op Marktplaats