P. (PIET) VAN DER HEM
1885 Wirdum - 1961 Den Haag
Piet van der Hem was born on September 9, 1885 in Wirdum. He and his brother lost both their parents at a young age, after which they were raised by their aunt and uncle in Leeuwarden. Van der Hem completed the H.B.S there in 1903, where he excelled in drawing. He went to the Kunstnijverheidsschool in Amsterdam and then to the Rijksacademie voor Beeldende Kunsten. Together with a few friends, Van der Hem left for Paris in 1907, where he moved into a simple studio in the artists' quarter of Montmartre. His interest was mainly in drawing and painting people in modern street and nightlife: circus performers, clowns, dancers and dressed-up women and men from the dissolute nightlife. This corresponds to the theme in the work of older artists such as Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and the Dutch artists Kees van Dongen and Jan Sluijters, who worked in Paris before. After a year and a half, Van der Hem returned to Amsterdam where he continued his studies in Paris. In 1909 he debuted at the exhibition of the artists' association Sint Lucas. The innovative work of the Amsterdam luminists Sluijters, Leo Gestel and Piet Mondrian with bright colors in loose paint strokes was also on display here. In Amsterdam, Van der Hem not only paid attention to elegant scenes from the mundane and demi-mundane world, but also to the people in the working-class neighbourhoods. As in Paris, his interest was in depicting people in lively and anecdotal scenes. He also made many trips between 1910-1914 to Rome, Paris, Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Madrid; here he captured the locals in typical fashion. In addition to his painting, Van der Hem made many book illustrations, posters, advertising plates and political cartoons on commission until 1945. Van der Hem died in 1961 at the age of 75. His work is included in the collections of the Drents Museum, Singer Laren, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam and the Rijksmuseum.