Carel Willink

From 27 June 2017

Stately, enigmatic, elegant and the world at a distance, Carel Willink (1900-1983) is the cool grandmaster of neo-realism. From the age of thirty his reputation grew as an unparalleled painter of monumental, architectural sets and ominous skies.

The arrangement in Kasteel Ruurlo shows the development of a searching artist, who later develops into the unrivaled painter of a technically perfect, elegant and enigmatic body of work. The collection in the castle is rotating, but there are always masterpieces by the master painter.

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Now on display

A grand master of stature like Carel Willink deserves a monumental home. That is why no fewer than 45 works can be seen in Museum MORE | Castle Ruurlo. From a self-portrait he made at the age of 18 to the famous painting "Portrait of Mathilde".

The young painter

Carel Willink came into contact with painting at a young age. Besides being a car dealer (unique at the time), his father was an amateur painter and encouraged his son to also paint. After he was unable to find his niche while studying architecture and medicine, Carel Willink left for Berlin to become a painter.

While studying at the International Free Academy in Berlin, Carel Willink experiments with different modern styles. He was soon impressed by the expressionism of the German George Grosz, which is also reflected in his work. He played with shadows and classical elements.

Image: Carel Willink | Girl portrait with beads 1925 © Mrs Sylvia Willink c / o Pictoright

Carel Willink | Zebra's in rood rotslandschap | 1958 | Copyright Sylvia Willink-Quiël c/o Pictoright

Seer of art

Carel Willink developed his own style by experimenting a lot. Inspired by the Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico, Willink created deserted streets, squares and parks that became Willink's own "trademark". But he wanted more: to excel in precision and technical perfection. He displayed tremendous ambition - and patience. He studied Old Masters from the 16th and 17th centuries that he admired, such as Holbein and Vermeer. Rembrandt was less appealing to him, his work "smelled too much of sweat and blood".

Image: Carel Willink | Zebras In Red Rock Landscape | 1958 | © Mrs. Sylvia Willink c / o Pictoright

Willink liked cool

Female nude is never erotic with him, but always aesthetic. Perhaps intellectually. Although "intellect" did not help with painting, he thought. "When you paint your mind is in the tip of your brush". But Willink also had humor and has been described as an "amused pessimist". It almost seems as if he had a knack for predicting historical events. Because did he predict the outbreak of the Second World War with his apocalyptic paintings from the "frightful 1930s"? The threatening atmosphere on the canvas almost screams it. After the war, Willink was often considered retrospectively a kind of seer.

Paul Huf | Carel Willink - Afscheid van Mathilde | copyright MAI

Cold concentration

Willink continued to paint in style in the 1950s and beyond. The general public continued to admire him, captains of industry and society figures asked him as their portraitist. He painted portraits of beer magnate Freddy Heineken and Queen Juliana.

According to him, painting was a matter of "cold concentration". The challenge was to shed new light on reality. Chess with alienating elements. In Willink's paintings exotic animals such as zebras, llamas and anteaters appeared. And he brought modern times into his own universe, with nuclear power plants and nuclear explosions. He combined these with ruined temples and ruined statues. According to Willink, the loss of our civilization in the world was still threatening. But the essence of his art had no political or social message: "The core of my work is a deadly infatuation with reality".

Image: Paul Huf | Carel Willink - Farewell to Mathilde | © MAI