Jan Verkade (1868-1946) Reminiscence-Fiesole, 1893
Jan Verkade (1868-1946) Reminiscence-Fiesole, 1893


The current display in the prints and drawings exhibition room, entitled A Passion for Drawings: Collectors at the Courtauld, emphasises the Gallery’s identity as a collection of collections. This identity is preserved not only by means of exhibitions and scholarship but in continued links with private collectors through whose generosity the Gallery is able to present new material to the public, emphasing strengths in the permanent collection or introducing areas of special interest otherwise unrepresented. The reinstallation of the second floor following Art on The Line provided the opportunity to display a number of significant new loans.

Although of high quality, the Gallery’s collection of early twentieth century painting is limited in range, with movements such as Fauvism, German Expressionism and Cubism largely unrepresented. It is particularly welcome then to be able to add two important works to the displays in Room 12: Alexej von Jawlensky’s 1907 landscape Wasserburg am Inn and Chaim Soutine’s uncompromisingly direct Jeune femme à la Blouse Blanche of c.1923. The Great Room also includes two new works: Paul Serusier’s 1889 portrait of Mai Chaipp and Reminiscence — Fiesole of 1893 by Jan Verkade. Serusier’s significance as a close associate of Gauguin and a central figure in the Nabis group is well understood, however Verkade remains largely unknown outside his native Holland. Reminiscence — Fiesole provides an excellent introduction to his work.

Encouraged and sometimes accompanied by Serusier, who was to become a close friend, Verkade spent several months working in the Breton villages of Pont-Aven, Le Poldu, Huelgoat and Saint-Nolff before travelling to Italy in 1892. He settled briefly in Florence but soon moved on to Fiesole and it was here that he painted Reminiscence. This delicate work shows a girl in traditional Breton costume, probably that of Saint-Nolff, set against a Tuscan landscape of rolling hills and cypresses. The heavy outlines and areas of flat colour illustrate Verkade’s proximity to Serusier and Gauguin, however Reminiscence also quietly expresses his growing interest in the spiritual aspects of art. Verkade had converted to Catholicism in Brittany and his encounter with early Renaissance painting, particularly the work of Fra Angelico, further convinced him to place his art in the service of religion. He spent five months as a lay brother with the Franciscans at Fiesole and subsequently entered the Benedictine monastery of Beuron in Southern Germany. Verkade remained close friends with his old Nabis companions, particularly Maurice Denis and Serusier. His friendship and exchange of ideas with Alexej von Jawlensky provides an agreable unifying thread to this important group of loans.

ERNST VEGELIN VAN CLAERBERGEN — Senior Curator