Chris Beekman, Composition, 1920

Chris Beekman, “Composition”, 1920,
collection Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam

Stedelijk presents ‘Chris Beekman, De Stijl Defector’

The Stedelijk presents ‘Chris Beekman, De Stijl Defector’ focusing on the work of Chris Beekman, one of the most politically active artists affiliated with the ‘De Stijl’ movement. 8 April – 17 September 2017.

Source: The Stedelijk Museum

The oeuvre of this forgotten De Stijl artist is presented for the first time, featuring around 80 artworks from the holdings of the Stedelijk Museum, Museum Kröller Müller and the Amsterdam Museum.

Painter and communist Chris Beekman (1887-1964) was friends with left-wing radicals like Bart van der Leck, Peter Alma and Robert van ’t Hoff. The works he produced during the early years of De Stijl show a liberal use of geometric shape and colour. However, Beekman later rejected the group’s purely idealistic ethos and what he saw as the movement’s lack of concrete social engagement. The world was in turmoil, and needed an art that everyone could understand. In the early 1920s, he abandoned abstraction in favour of figurative work of a more political nature. The exhibition clearly traces Beekman’s break with De Stijl: as Mondrian paints his most ethereal black and white work, a disillusioned Beekman sets out to create an art for the common people. With this, he forms a trait-d'union between De Stijl and the Russian Revolution: many Russian artists, including Malevich, also returned to figuration.

In addition to highlighting Beekman’s work from immediately before, during and after the De Stijl period, the presentation also explores the immediate context within which he worked. Brought into focus are links with Bart van der Leck and Piet Mondrian, with whom he became acquainted in Laren, as well as work by Jacob Bendien, Johan van Hell and Ferdinand Erfmann, and unusual early abstract work by Carel Willink.

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