On Friday October 9th mayor Koen Schuiling opened Werkmans Bovenkamer in GRID Graphic Museum Groningen. At the same time the temporary exhibition Werkman werkt door is opened. Despite the covid-measures it was a festive afternoon in the museum.
Of course it took some getting used to: an opening in rounds and everyone with face masks on. Fortunately, the form did not prevail over this festive moment: Werkman and his legacy took central stage. Just like the makers of the exhibition; they gave the guests an insight in their process and inspiration. In the presence of some of his grandchildren, the Groninger printer and artist Hendrik Nicolaas Werkman (1882-1945) was given a permanent place in Werkmans Bovenkamer in the museum and his city.
Werkman up top! was created with the help of guest curator Anneke de Vries, Studio 212 Fahrenheit and Studio Schuttinga.
In this room the visitor is taken on a trip into his life story. The room is a modest space. Yet you can easily spend an hour in it. The wealth of information, both analogue and digital, continues to fascinate and goes beyond many other exhibitions about Werkman. His struggle between the forced business life and the creative freedom are very recognizable and that works so inspiring that you would like to get to work yourself right away.
Werkman is one of the most fascinating Dutch artists of the twentieth century. However, he was not only a visual artist: until his death in 1945, he had a printing business in Groningen. After Werkman’s death, his successors ensured that the legacy from the printing works remained together as much as possible. In 2019 GRID succeeded in acquiring this material, which the museum had had on loan for a long time. In this way, this heritage from the ‘lead era’ of the Groningen graphic industry will be preserved. “GRID is the place where visitors can experience the meaning of Werkman’s artistry, his ideas, creativity, inspiration and cross-thinking”, says Fronique Oosterhof, director of the GRID Graphic Museum Groningen.
Werkmans artistry is closely linked to the materials with which he worked as a printer. In Werkmans Bovenkamer the materials and materials from the print shop are central: the bucks with wooden and lead letters, the hand press and the Heidelberger printing machine. In addition, there is a small changing exhibition that shows how Werkman used that material. The first temporary exhibition revolves around a film poster, a print sleeve and the cover of one of the best-known editions of De Blauwe Schuit. At first glance they don’t have much in common, but a box with wooden note letters reveals the surprising connection.
Werkman was one of the great Dutch artists of the twentieth century and renowned on a European scale. Werkman became known as the printer of De Ploeg, the art circle that shook up the city of Groningen at the beginning of the twentieth century. However, he was much more than that. The wilful developments in his work show an artist who kept renewing himself and did not follow the rules that others imposed on him. His art reflects the turbulent times in which he lived: the war, the economy and cultural life in Groningen.
Werkmans artistry is closely linked to the materials he worked with as a printer. His unconventional way of working and (printing) art were groundbreaking and are a milestone in the graphic history of Groningen. The mentality that underlies his oeuvre remains a source of inspiration for many to this day.
“The free, refreshing new way of dealing with the printer’s rigid, right-angled material; letting letters and numbers jump out of line; printing print runs in ways that make identical prints virtually impossible – I think that’s what makes Werkman unique during his life, and from which graphic artists draw inspiration after his death,” says guest curator Anneke de Vries.
Werkman Up Top! brings visitors closer to Werkman, his life and his printer-artistry. The exhibition Werkman werkt door shows how other artists have been inspired by Werkman’s printing art. His contemporaries, post-war and present-day artists, both national and international. This results in an impressive exhibition with works by Fie Werkman, Jan Gerrit Jordens, Wobbe Alkema, Josua Reichert, Willem Sandberg, Ben Joosten, the Spanish artist Bunkertype and the American artist Amos Kennedy. The exhibition will run until Sunday April 4th 2021.
Several parts of the inventory were already on loan at GRID. To ensure that the inventory as a whole would be preserved in Groningen and would remain accessible to the public, the fundraising for the acquisition, restoration and refurbishment of the museum was started together with the Committee of Recommendation in 2018. After the granting of the funds, the entire inventory officially came into GRID’s possession on 5th of July 2019.
In addition, the Rembrandt Association has awarded a research grant to art historian Marije Sennema. Accompanied by and together with Anneke de Vries, she will conduct research into the relationship between Werkman’s printing materials and his prints. The first results of the research will be published in the Ploeg Jaarboek 2021. The research is also made possible by a contribution from the Beringer Hazewinkel Foundation and the Mondriaan Fund.