Thursday, June 23, 2016

Rien Poortvliet Was a Master

The Christian Science Monitor, one of our finest small papers, once wrote that "[Rien Poortvliet's] painting is as skilled and accomplished as any painter, certainly any illustrator in the world today."

That was not an exaggeration.

Poortvliet produced a unique body of truly excellent art that shows a love of land, wildlife, dogs, people, hunting, and history. He also leaves behind a small museum dedicated to his work.

Poortvliet was entirely self-taught -- a self-conscience act which ensured that his his style was entirely his. Born August 7, 1935, Poortvliet was the son of a Dutch plasterer and began his artistic career as a graphics artist for magazines. His most famous (though certainly not his best!) work is a book called ''Gnomes'' which continues to sell well. Poortvliet was always somewhat flummoxed by the fact that The New York Times Best Seller List included the book in the "non-fiction" category. ''Why?'' he asked, ''Do they think there really are gnomes?''

Poortvliet spent two years in the Dutch navy and, as soon as he was old enough, he visited America. "What I learned about America, was that I wanted to go home."

Home was Soest, a village 30 miles southeast of Amsterdam where he lived with his wife, Corrie Bouman, and their collection of rabbits, dogs, cats, chickens, and farm stock.

Poortvliet worked exclusively in water color -- a medium that allowed him to produce fine works at great speed and with the depth of color and texture needed to capture fur, feather, wood, dirt, and the grinding cogs of history. "Sometimes I work with much water," he said. "Sometimes with a very dry brush. Sometimes with a little spit."

Poortvliet's eye for detail and his intuitive understanding of wildlife, dogs and landscape was without parallel, but he was somewhat deficient at observing the modern world. "I can paint for you any animal you want, including humans," he said. "I can paint an elephant from underneath, as if it were walking on a plate of glass above us. I have never seen this, but I can paint it. But, if you ask me to paint the dashboard of my Volkswagen, I would have to go out and look at it in the yard."

The remarkable Rien Poortvliet died in 1995 of bone cancer at the incredibly young age of 63, but his magnificent art lives on, a gift to us all. Along with his book on dogs, I recommend his book, The Living Forest: A World of Animals available from or

To see more art from Rien Poortvleit, see >> HERE.

Rien aimé est déjà perdu.

1 comment:

Joe Mama said...

I stand in awe of some of histories great artists. A few of my favorites include May Theilgaard Watts, Daniel Carter Beard and Peter Carrington (still living). They all have the gift of omitting what is not important and subtly enhancing those characteristics that make a situation or specimen unique. Their drawings look more like the item than a photograph.

While that sounds impossible, one must remember that photos also capture ubiquitous detail that dilutes the uniqueness and photos rarely are of "arch types", rather, they are of specimens that happen to be most available.