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Jan Hendrik Willem WITTENBERG

Jan Hendrik Willem Wittenberg (1886-1963) was born and raised in Den Haag (The Hague, Netherlands).  His father was a typographer, which may explain the son’s interest in printmaking.  Showing precocious talent while drawing at night at the Haagse Academie as a young teenager, his mother steered him away from the arts and found work for him in a tax office.  He stayed there until 1909, before returning to the academy for a few months, studying with Floris Arntzenius, and before winning a Royal subsidy for thee years in 1911.  Wittenberg now was able to dedicate himself fully to painting.  By 1914 he lived in Dordrecht and became a member of Pictura, an artist organization, and he managed to receive kind words from the feared art critic Albert Plasschaert.  He married in 1916 and steadily built a career for himself.  He belonged to several arts organizations, including some dedicated specifically to printmaking, such as De Brug (The Bridge).  He eventually became a teacher in Rotterdam at the Academie voor Beeldende Kunsten.  Wittenberg is remembered both in his paintings and in his prints for simple subjects, which usually are void of backgrounds.  Whether depicting animals or flowers, both of which he did often, the landscapes or rooms in which these fit, are generally not shown.  His style was clearly influenced by art nouveau and art deco tendencies, which he adapted to his own taste, however.  Stylized birds, both painted, or depicted in woodcuts and lithographs, can be said to be among his most arresting compositions.

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