I have been discovering the joys of Theo Van Hoytema recently. In particular I came across a bundle of his calendar sheets (which of course, I promptly purchased).
Van Hoytema (1863-1917) was Dutch illustrator and book designer. He was particularly known for his nature images (more specifically birds). He grew up in The Hague, and afterwards in Voorschoten. He took drawing lessons at the Academy of Art in The Hague, and through his Uncle’s contacts he studied at the Zoological Museum in Leiden.
Van Hoytema did not belong to a particular artistic group or movement. His work reveals a number of typical characteristics of the period 1890-1900: the influence of English illustrators such as Walter Crane – especially in the first two picture books, and the influence of Japanese prints. Art Nouveau styling elements, decorative and whimsical undulations, and distinct contours were employed, without losing sight of naturalism. He made many watercolours and drawings of plants and animals, which clearly reveal his appreciation for Japanese prints: he often outlined the separate areas of flat colour with ink, in imitation of such prints, and he could describe the characteristic attitudes of animals with a masterly economy of line.
His first illustrations were published in 1891, “How the Birds Came to a King.” He followed this up with “The Ugly Ducking” in 1893 and “The Happy Owls” in 1895.
He married in 1891, but it was not a happy marriage, and did not last. He entered a restless period after the breakdown of his marriage, moving around, and staying for a while with his brother in London. Between 1904 and 1906 he spent time in a hospital, and a sanatorium for neurotics. On release, he lived with his sister in The Hague for the rest of his life. It was during this later period that he made the calendars which made him famous. Theo van Hoytema made 17 calendars. The final one, for the year 1918, was somewhat sketchy, as it was in preparation in the year of his death, and was not completed as a full colour lithograph. There are collections of his work in the Museum Bijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, and the Rijksmuseum & Stedelijk Museums in Amsterdam. There is a road and square / park named after him in The Hague, with a memorial there.
Should the urge take you, please feel free to peruse our first offering of his calendar Lithographs by clicking here