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Piet Ouborg

Dordrecht -

Dordrecht 1893, Den Haag 1956

Piet Ouborg was born as Pieter Ouborg in Dordrecht on March 10, 1893. Ouborg was from 1916 to 1938 employed as a drawing teacher in the former Dutch East Indies, these years were decisive in his development as an artist. Especially the magical religious experiences and exotic masks and statues of oriental culture stood to him as a source of inspiration. As an autodidact, he initially painted the landscape and the inhabitants of the Indies. He was briefed on the European art through French magazines with reproductions of works by masters such as Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), Georges Braque (1882-1963), André Masson (1896-1987), Max Ernst (1891-1976) and Joan Miró (1893-1983). Far removed from the heart of surrealism, Ouborg adopted an authentic surrealist style in the thirties, which coincided with Eastern and Western influences. He created visionary abstractions and experimented with lacy arabesques and poetic color spots, lines and rhythms that were a spiritual charge by the “automatic” writing characters in the style of Miró. His surrealism developed after he permanently had returned to the Netherlands in 1938, into an exuberant abstract expressionism, more circumspect, but equally vital as the work of the much younger CoBrA artists. His work began in the wake of painters Karel Appel (1921-2006), Constant (1920-2005) and Corneille (1922-2010). Ouborg was asked in 1946 by Amsterdamian painter Willy Boers (1905-1978) to become a member of Vrij Beelden (Free Images)*, a new artists’union that preferred an abstract (free) method of painting. He was warned not to go into business with “a bunch of communists”, with which the artists of Free Images were referred to. Ouborg who did not come from the ‘red’ Amsterdam, had no objections against this invitation. However, he did disparagingly express his opinion at the first exhibition of Vrij Beelden in 1947, about the artistic quality of the group: “I appreciate a single painting of Sinemus, Boers, Hunziker and Vordemberge-Gildewart. I’m done with my list.” After three exhibitions he decided to stop taking part with Vrij Beelden in March 1949. He assumed that the members had a lack of conviction and self-criticism and an inappropriate self-assertion. Although Ouborg has not accepted the proposal of experimental painters Theo Wolvecamp (1925-1992) and Anton Rooskens (1906-1976), to join them just before the notorious CoBrA exhibition in 1949, with which his entry “Father and son” for the Jacob Maris Prize produced in 1950 caused a riot, that represented a clear echo of the tumult surrounding the CoBrA exhibition. Ouborg was also depicted as an infantile scribbler. That Ouborg as a passionate pioneer in his abstract art tried to penetrate through the “original source” and the all-encompassing or “cosmic”, wanting to express a clear distinction of his spiritual character and in essence metaphysical art in which he wanted to offer humanity a spiritual enrichment. Ouborg left an extensive oeuvre. Hundreds of drawings, design sketches, gouaches and paintings have been preserved. From 1917 he participated in group exhibitions and in 1931 he had solo exhibitions in Europe and beyond.

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