Bram van Velde

Bram (Abraham Gerardus) van Velde (19 October 1895 in Zoeterwoude, near Leiden, Netherlands – 28 December 1981 in Grimaud, near Arles, France) was a Dutch painter known for an intensely colored and geometric semi-representational painting style related to Tachisme, and Lyrical Abstraction. He is often seen as member of the School of Paris but his work resides somewhere between expressionism and surrealism, and evolved in the 1960s into an expressive abstract art. His paintings from the 1950s are similar to the contemporary work of Matisse, Picasso and the abstract expressionist Adolph Gottlieb. He was championed by a number of French-speaking writers, including Samuel Beckett and the poet André du Bouchet.

Bram van Velde and Peter Bramsen (1969) by Erling Mandelmann
photo of Bram van Velde (left) in 1969, looking at his lithographs, printed by Peter Bramsen; photo of Erling Mandelmann

Early life

Bram van Velde was born into an intensely poor family, and this would mark him profoundly for life. His mother, Catharina von der Voorst (1867–1949) was the illegitimate daughter of a Count. His father, Willem van Velde (1868–1914) owned a small company engaged in water transportation on the Rhine. Bram was the second of four children (his sister Cornelia was born in 1892, Geer and Jacoba were born in 1898 and 1903). After going bankrupt, the father abandoned the family; the mother and children moved repeatedly over the next years, from Leyden to Lisse, and finally to The Hague.

In 1907, the young Bram entered into service as an apprentice in the painting and interior decorating company of Schaijk & Kramers in The Hague. He was encouraged in his art by the co-owner Eduard H. Kramers and his son Wijnand, who were appreciators and collectors of art, and these two would become Bram van Velde's artistic patrons until around 1934. Because of his status as bread-winner for his family, Bram van Velde was exempted from service in the First World War, and he was able to continue his work as a painter and decorator, and to enroll in the Mauritshuis of The Hague, where he was able to copy masterworks in the collection.

Early career

In 1922, the Kramers encouraged van Velde to travel and gave him a monthly stipend. He went first to Munich in May, then to north of Bremen (in Worpswede) in June, where, since the 1890s, there existed a colony of expressionist artists. This three-month exposure to contemporary art revolutionized van Velde's work. He left Worpswede shortly after, and moved to Paris (in the Belleville quartier, 19th arrondissement). His career progressed slowly, and in February 1927 he exhibited his works in Bremen. This was followed by the Jury-Freie Kunstschau of Berlin in April. Finally, he (with his brother Geer) was admitted into the Salon des Indépendants in Paris, where he would show his works several times (1928 to 1932, in 1940 and 1941). In this period he went to Chartres in the company of Otto Freundlich, and also discovered the works of Henri Matisse (probably at the home of Paul Guillaume). Matisse would have a great impact on van Velde's work (as too, in coming years, would van Velde's discovery of Pablo Picasso).

On 6 October 1928 van Velde married the German painter Lilly (Sophie Caroline) Klöker (1896–1936), whom he had been seeing since perhaps his stay at Worpswede. With the Great Depression, their material conditions deteriorated and they moved to Spain, and in September 1932 they were living in Majorca. It is here that van Velde used the early painting of Matisse as his inspiration and he made a series of still-lives in which his later abstraction started to show itself. When the Spanish Civil War started in 1936, Lilly died in a hospital and Bram van Velde fled back to Marseille with several of his canvases made on Majorca. He came back to Paris and moved in with his brother Geer. He met Marthe Arnaud, a former Lutheran missionary in the Zambezi, and they became a couple. At the studio of his brother Geer van Velde—also becoming an abstract painter—Bram van Velde met the writer Samuel Beckett, and the two would develop a friendship. Stopped on the street by the police in 1938 because he was speaking German with Marthe, van Velde was briefly imprisoned (his papers were not in order), and brief incarcerations would occur several times in the coming years.


In 1939, van Velde came upon his own painting style while working in a large-format with gouache. He stopped painting in 1941, but began again in autumn 1945. His first solo exhibition opened on 21 March 1946 in Paris in the "Galerie Mai" with 25 canvases, nearly all of his existing works, but the show was a failure. Beckett wrote his first essay on his work in les Cahiers d'art de Zervos. In 1947, van Velde signed a contract with the Galerie Maeght in Paris, and in 1948 he showed his work in the Kootz gallery in New York, but this was also a commercial failure, despite a good review by Willem de Kooning. After one more commercial disaster at Maeght, van Velde stopped painting for a year. In 1952, Maeght canceled their contract with him, while retaining his works.

In 1958, Franz Meyer organized the first museum exposition of Bram van Velde, a retrospective at the Kunsthalle of Bern. The couple Bram-Marthe left Paris the same year, but Marthe died the following year (11 August), having been hit by a car during a brief trip to Paris. At Christmas 1959, Bram van Velde met Madeleine in Geneva, and the two became a couple.

Starting in 1961, van Velde began to achieve a certain critical success. Jean-Michel Meurice made a documentary film about the artist. Younger expressive painters such as Pierre Alechinsky and the Danish Cobra-painter Asger Jorn admired Van Velde's art and his privat vue on art very strongly; they met him frequently and let their own art be influenced by his expressive art. Van Velde shuttled between Paris and Geneva, and in 1967 he moved to the latter. When the relation with Madeleine broke down, he returned to the Bourgogne where he lived and worked in a very sober little house. In 1957 Van Velde made his first lithography, and with the help of Jaques Putman he made long series of lithographies in the following years.

In 1962, 1964 and 1968 van Velde had exhibitions in the United States organized by the Knoedler gallery. In 1968 the art critic can appreciate him as 'an important abstract expressionist painter with an independent vision'. In 1962 he visited Willem de Kooning—also of Dutch origins—but the contact between the two artists is not very satisfying for either side. After 1970, van Velde travelled to visit his own expositions in Poland, Iceland, Italy and Norway, Brussels, Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Rome. He did not make much new work during this period. In 1964, he was named "chevalier" of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and the Netherlands awarded him the Order of Orange-Nassau in 1969. In 1973, he painted at La Chapelle-sur-Carouge several large gouaches which are seen as the last "savage" appearance of colour in his work. Aimé Maeght took him back in his gallery, almost 20 years after having dropped him. In 1975, he was received by universities in Lausanne, Geneva and Neuchâtel, and in 1980 he was made chevalier of the "Order of the Falcon" in Iceland. For his 80th birthday, a collective homage was published by the presses at Fata Morgana (Montpellier).

Bram van Velde died on 28 December 1981 in Grimaud (near Arles), and is buried there. His mentor and friend Jacques Putman, who supported him and his career after Bram's departure from Maeght, is buried beside him (Putman died on 27 February 1994 in Paris).


  • Mason, Rainer Michael. Bram van Velde 1895–1981; Rétrospective du Centenaire, catalogue d’exposition, avec quinze contributions d'auteurs divers. Musée Rath (Musée d'art et d'histoire). Geneva: 1996, pp. 305–307.
  • Putman, Jacques. Bram Van Velde. Texts by Jacques Putman, Georges Duthuit and Samuel Beckett. Collection: Le Musée de Poche. Paris: Editions Georges Fall, 1958.
  • Erik Slagter and others, Bram van Velde, een Hommage, Stedelijk Museum De Lakenhal, Leiden, Stedelijk Museum Schiedam, Museum de Wieger Deurne, Gemeente Zoeterwoude, 1994.
  • Arrabal, Hubert Juin, Bram van Velde, in Derrière le miroir n° 216, Paris: Maeght, 1975
  • Alechinsky, Pierre, Bram van Velde in Derrière le miroir n° 240, Paris: Maeght, 1980

External links

André Villers

André Villers (French: [vilje]; 10 October 1930 – 1 April 2016) was a French photographer and artist "best known for his pictures of Pablo Picasso in the south of France in the 1950s."

André du Bouchet

André du Bouchet (April 7, 1924 – April 19, 2001) was a French poet.

Bernard Lamarche-Vadel

Bernard Lamarche-Vadel (16 July 1949, Avallon. – 2 May 2000, La Croixille in Mayenne) was a French writer, poet, art critic and collector.

Bram (given name)

Bram is a given name for a male. It is derived from the name Abraham, and common in Dutch-speaking regions. It can also be a short form of Abraham or Abram.

Charles Juliet

Charles Juliet (born 30 September 1934) in Jujurieux in Ain, is a French poet, playwright and novelist. He won the 2013 Prix Goncourt de la Poésie.

His works have been translated into German, Spanish, Italian, English, Polish, Japanese, Vietnamese, Turkish, Korean, Chinese, etc...

Derrière le miroir

Derrière le Miroir is a French art magazine created in 1946 and published until 1982. Art galleries, auction houses and booksellers often refer to this art magazine simply as D.L.M. or DLM.Aimé Maeght is the founder, editor and publisher.

Disjecta (Beckett)

Disjecta: Miscellaneous Writings and a Dramatic Fragment is a collection of previously uncollected writings by Samuel Beckett, spanning his entire career. The title is derived from the Latin phrase "disjecta membra," meaning scattered remains or fragments, usually applied to written work.

The essays appear in their original language of composition (English, French, or German), as stipulated by Beckett, since the volume is intended for scholars who should be able to read several languages. Beckett himself did not value these pieces much, seeing them as "mere products of friendly obligation or economic need".The collection includes Beckett's famous essay on an early version of James Joyce's Finnegans Wake which originally appeared in Our Exagmination Round His Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress.

Documenta III

documenta III was the third edition of documenta, a quinquennial contemporary art exhibition. It was held between 27 June and 5 October 1964 in Kassel, Germany. The artistic director was Arnold Bode in collaboration with Werner Haftmann. The title of the exhibition was: Internationale Ausstellung – international exhibition.

Geer van Velde

Gerardus "Geer" van Velde (5 April 1898, Lisse – 5 March 1977, Cachan, Paris) was a Dutch painter.

Georges Duthuit

Georges Duthuit (1891–1973) was a French writer, art critic and historian.

Duthuit was a key commentator on Matisse, Nicolas de Staël, Jean-Paul Riopelle, and Bram van Velde. He maintained a close association with the surrealists, particularly André Masson. In 1939, he was among the intellectuals convened for George Bataille's College of Sociology. Part of his correspondences on contemporary art with Samuel Beckett form the text Three Dialogues, originally published in the literary journal, transition.

Jacoba van Velde

Jacoba van Velde (The Hague, 10 May 1903 – Amsterdam, 7 September 1985) was a Dutch writer, translator, and dramaturge. Her first novel, "De grote zaal" (The Great Hall), appeared in the literary journal Querido in 1953 and was translated into thirteen languages within ten years. During her life around 75,000 copies of "De grote zaal" were sold. In 2010, the book was chosen for the Nederland Leest (Netherlands Reads) campaign and copies were given away for free to members of all the public libraries in The Netherlands.

Judit Reigl

Judit Reigl (born Judit Némedy, May 1, 1923) is a Hungarian painter living in France.

Lyrical abstraction

Lyrical abstraction is either of two related but distinct trends in Post-war Modernist painting:

European Abstraction Lyrique born in Paris, the French art critic Jean José Marchand being credited with coining its name in 1947, considered as a component of (Tachisme) when the name of this movement was coined in 1951 by Pierre Guéguen and Charles Estienne the author of L'Art à Paris 1945–1966, and American Lyrical Abstraction a movement described by Larry Aldrich (the founder of the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield Connecticut) in 1969.A third definition is the usage as a descriptive term. It is a descriptive term characterizing a type of abstract painting related to Abstract Expressionism; in use since the 1940s. Many well known abstract expressionist painters like Arshile Gorky seen in context have been characterized as doing a type of painting described as lyrical abstraction.

Pieter Stoop

Pieter Stoop is a Dutch painter of large abstract paintings.

Pieter Stoop acquired his artistic education at the Academy of Catholic Education, Tilburg (1962–1966) and at the Jan van Eyck Academy of Maastricht (1966–1972). At the end of his studies he obtained the Prize for the Visual Arts of the city of Maastricht (1972), and later on he received financial support to do a study trip to Morocco (prins Bernhard Fonds, 1974), and to New York City en Mexico (travel grant CRM, 1979). Specialised in painting and sculpture and influenced by Soutine, Willem de Kooning and Bram van Velde, the artist revolutionized painting with “Nieuwe Schilderijen”. This school conceived art according exclusively to its materiality. Stoop focused on the painting materials and applied them thickly layer after layer to achieve a thick quality on the canvas.

“The essence is not that Pieter Stoop takes the landscape as his starting point; what matters is how the movement of paint and colour transforms the surface into something else: the painter’s art. Pieter Stoop makes beautifully modulated paintings.”

R. H. FuchsLarge canvases constitute his working sphere, which are dealt with through a long process that brings the artist to alternate oil painting with small-format drawings and acrylic paintings to make a quick sketch. Pieter Stoop does currently live in Eindhoven.

School of Paris

School of Paris (French: École de Paris) refers to the French and émigré artists who worked in Paris in the first half of the 20th century.

The School of Paris was not a single art movement or institution, but refers to the importance of Paris as a center of Western art in the early decades of the 20th century. Between 1900 and 1940 the city drew artists from all over the world and became a centre for artistic activity. School of Paris was used to describe this loose community, particularly of non-French artists, centered in the cafes, salons and shared workspaces and galleries of Montparnasse.Before World War I the name was also applied to artists involved in the many collaborations and overlapping new art movements, between post-Impressionists and pointillism and Orphism, Fauvism and Cubism. In that period the artistic ferment took place in Montmartre and the well-established art scene there. But Picasso moved away, the war scattered almost everyone, by the 1920s Montparnasse become a center of the avant-garde. After World War II the name was applied to another different group of abstract artists.


Tachisme (alternative spelling: Tachism, derived from the French word tache, stain) is a French style of abstract painting popular in the 1940s and 1950s. The term is said to have been first used with regards to the movement in 1951. It is often considered to be the European equivalent to abstract expressionism, although there are stylistic differences (American abstract expressionism tended to be more "aggressively raw" than tachisme). It was part of a larger postwar movement known as Art Informel (or Informel), which abandoned geometric abstraction in favour of a more intuitive form of expression, similar to action painting. Another name for Tachism is Abstraction lyrique (related to American Lyrical Abstraction). COBRA is also related to Tachisme, as is Japan's Gutai group.

After World War II the term School of Paris often referred to Tachisme, the European equivalent of American abstract expressionism. Important proponents were Jean-Paul Riopelle, Wols, Jean Dubuffet, Pierre Soulages, Nicolas de Staël, Hans Hartung, Gérard Schneider, Serge Poliakoff, Georges Mathieu and Jean Messagier, among several others. (See list of artists below.)

According to Chilvers, the term tachisme "was first used in this sense in about 1951 (the French critics Charles Estienne and Pierre Guéguen have each been credited with coining it) and it was given wide currency by [French critic and painter] Michel Tapié in his book Un Art autre (1952)."

Tachisme was a reaction to Cubism and is characterized by spontaneous brushwork, drips and blobs of paint straight from the tube, and sometimes scribbling reminiscent of calligraphy.

Tachisme is closely related to Informalism or Art Informel, which, in its 1950s French art-critical context, referred not so much to a sense of "informal art" as "a lack or absence of form itself"–non-formal or un-form-ulated–and not a simple reduction of formality or formalness. Art Informel was more about the absence of premeditated structure, conception or approach (sans cérémonie) than a mere casual, loosened or relaxed art procedure.

Three Dialogues

Originally published in transition 49 in 1949, Three Dialogues represents a small part (fewer than 3000 words) of a correspondence between Samuel Beckett and Georges Duthuit about the nature of contemporary art, with particular reference to the work of Pierre Tal-Coat, André Masson and Bram van Velde. It might more accurately be said that beneath these surface references may be found an invaluable commentary on Beckett's own struggle with expression at a particularly creative and pivotal period of his life. A frequently quoted example is the following recommendation, ostensibly for what Tal Coat's work should strive towards: "The expression that there is nothing to express, nothing with which to express, nothing from which to express, no power to express, no desire to express, together with the obligation to express."

A great strength of these dialogues is the wit of both participants, combined with Duthuit's persistent and intelligent challenges to Beckett's pessimism, as in his reply to the above recommendation: "But that is a violently extreme and personal point of view, of no help to us in the matter of Tal Coat." Beckett's only answer to that is, appropriately enough, silence.Roughly, the scheme of the dialogues is as follows. Beckett is critical first of Tal Coat and then of Masson (both of whom Duthuit defends and admires) for continuing the failures of the traditional art which they claim to challenge or reject. By way of contrast, he holds up the work of his friend Bram van Velde, although Duthuit appears exasperated (or mock-exasperated) that Beckett's commentary seems continually to refer back to his own preoccupations: "Try and bear in mind that the subject under discussion is not yourself..."Other revealing comments made by Beckett in the dialogues include: "I speak of an art turning from [the plane of the feasible] in disgust, weary of its puny exploits, weary of pretending to be able, of being able, of doing a little better the same old thing, of going a little further along a dreary road." He also speaks of his "dream of an art unresentful of its insuperable indigence and too proud for the farce of giving and receiving."Despite the unrelenting pessimism of Beckett's arguments, these dialogues are charged with a self-deprecating good humour that help to throw light on the fundamental paradox of seeking (and finding) brilliantly expressive ways to express that nothing meaningful can ever be expressed. At the end of the first dialogue, Beckett's silence is met with Duthuit's rejoinder that "perhaps that is enough for today"); at the end of the second, Beckett "exits weeping" when Duthuit asks, "Are we really to deplore the painting that is rallying, among all the things of time that pass and hurry us away, towards a time that endures and gives increase?"; the third ends with Beckett remembering warmly that, "I am mistaken, I am mistaken."

Van Velde

van Velde is a surname. Notable people with the surname include:

Bram van Velde (1895–1981), Dutch painter

Geer van Velde (1898–1977), Dutch painter

Gerard van Velde (born 1971), Dutch speed skater


Zoeterwoude ([ˌzutərˈʋʌudə] (listen)) is a municipality in the western Netherlands, in the province of South Holland. The municipality covers 21.96 km2 (8.48 sq mi) of which 0.70 km2 (0.27 sq mi) is water. It had a population of 8,396 in 2017.

The municipality of Zoeterwoude consists of Zoeterwoude-Dorp, Zoeterwoude-Rijndijk, Gelderswoude, Weipoort, Westeinde, and Zuidbuurt. The main brewery of Heineken International is located there.

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