Jaski Art Gallery

Constant
(Amsterdam, 1920 - Amsterdam, 2005)

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Constant

Constant Anton Nieuwenhuijs attended the Kunstnijverheidsschool and the Rijksacademie in Amsterdam successively, from 1939 to 1942. He met Asger Jorn in Paris in 1946. After this meeting fantastic beasts and aggressive, frightening animal and human figures began to appear in his paintings. Constant held his first one-man exhibition in Amsterdam in 1947. In the following year he was co-founder of the Dutch Experimental Group and also of CoBrA.

Constant is the author of the “Manifesto” that appeared in the first number of “Reflex” (the newsletter of the Experimental Group). Together with Christian Dotremont he was the leading theoretician of CoBrA. In the countless manifestos and articles that he wrote for the group he examined the social role of the artist, calling for the liberation of creativity and imagination at the service of a culture constantly renewing itself. In the work that he produced during the CoBrA years we see the same sort of figures derived from children’s drawings as with Karel Appel, in rough lines and deliberately clumsy forms.

In 1950 Constant settled in Paris, where he met Stephen Gilbert. In this period he produced his “war paintings,” filled by the remains of a destroyed world in which helpless people stretch out their hands to heaven. It was in the late 1950s that Constant developed his ideas about the ideal city, “New Babylon,” in which people freed from work, “homo ludens,” would be able to develop their creative abilities. Constant took part in the 1956 conference “Mouvement pour un Bauhaus Imaginiste,” organised by Jorn, and in the following year he was one of the co-founders of the “Situationist International.”

From the 1970s onwards he concentrated more on painting, water colours and drawings, with the work of the old masters forming an important source of inspiration. Constant died in 2005 and will remembered as one of the best post-war painters The Netherlands produced.