Amsterdamse School, Berlage, Chris van der Hoef, Drents Museum, Frans Zwollo sr., George Henri Lantman, Jac. van de Bosch, Jan Eisenloeffel, Jan van der Mey, Lion Cachet, Michel de Klerk, Nieuwe Kunst
I was ab-so-lute-ly flabbergasted the first time I saw Lantmans work on Twitter!
So when I learned the Drents Museum would organize an exhibition about his work, I was determined to go there and see his legacy with my own eyes…
That was October last year.
Then came our trip to Sarajevo… and I was also (still) busy restoring our own hundred-and-one-year-old Art Nouveau family home. Autumn turned to winter, Christmas came and went, I got ill and recovered way too slow… and before I knew it, there was only 1 option left in my busy schedule. Last saturday. My apologies for leaving you with only one day left to see the exhibition. Tomorrow.
It was a 2,5 hours drive, and the exhibition was small, but the lack of quantity was amply compensated by the brilliant quality. I felt like a kid in a candy store!
To support the exhibition, the museum has published an excellent biography about Lantman, best read before visiting the exhibition. Knowing the background of these objects would make you respect George Henri Lantman even more.
Having read the whole biography, I can’t help but feel sorry for the poor man. Let me explain to you why: Lantman was a genius who desperately needed a break but never got one.
George Henri Lantman (1875-1933) was born in Amsterdam. After elementary school he was told to get a job which he didn’t like. He tried several careers but never stayed long enough to finish his training. In 1896, with some help and recommendation, he got into the Haarlemse School voor Kunstnijverheid where he could develop his skills as a silversmith and metal artist. One of his teachers was the famous Frans Zwollo sr., the founding father of the decorative trend in Dutch Art Nouveau (Nieuwe Kunst) metal working.
Restless as Lantman was however, he left school after a year – without a diploma – and got a job at Fayence- and Plateelfabriek (pottery) Amstelhoek. This is where he met important people like Lambertus Zijl (1866-1947), Chris van der Hoef (1875-1933), Jan Eisenloeffel (1876-1957), Willem Penaat (1875-1957), H.P. Berlage (1856-1934) and Jac. van de Bosch (1868-1948).
In 1905, Lantman became the assistant to Carel Adolph Lion Cachet (1864-1945), a versatile designer and decorative artist known for his batiks, wood carvings, wall paper designs, pottery, furniture, posters and book covers. Lion Cachet was even responsible for the complete interior design of some passenger ship salons! During this apprenticeship, Lantman met with Lion Cachets friends Gerrit Willem Dijsselhof and Theo Nieuwenhuis.
After Lantman was forced to move on again, he found employment with Het Huis, founded by Eduard Cuypers (1859-1927) who was affiliated with Michel de Klerk (1884-1923), Jan van der Mey (1878-1949) and Piet Kramer (1881-1961). And the list with famous names just goes on!
Lantman preferred to make unique pieces. He loved to indulge himself in his projects, demonstrating his technical skills. He spent hours and hours perfecting his pieces of art wich made them priceless of course, and didn’t help getting a large clientèle. On top of that, he was a rather quiet and withdrawn person, who failed to build a large social network, and therefore got few assignments. His modest character did not allow him to strongly take a stand in the art debate. He never finished his education, was a restless job-hopper and moved house at least 10 times.
Only at age 45 Lantman seems to have found his peace. He was married to Engelina Maria Keizer and had found employment as a night school teacher. The couple moved to their permanent home – with a workshop – in Nieuwer Amstel and started a family. To support their family and create a more steady income, Engelina started a drugstore, called ‘Hagedis’ (lizard), in their livingroom. They never reached a worry-free stage though; art paid the doctor for a delivery, art paid the tailor for a new suit, and there was hardly ever enough money to buy silver for new projects. Lantman made most of his objects of Tombak, a cheap copper-zinc alloy that is easy and soft to work by hand: hand tools can easily punch, cut, enamel, repousse, engrave, gild, or etch it. It has a higher sheen than most brasses or copper, and does not easily tarnish.
On top of all this hardship Lantman deceased, tragically, way too early! Recovering from his anesthesia after an appendectomy he took a sip, still half asleep, of a glass that stood on his nightstand. It turned out the glass had been left behind by a cleaning lady and was filled with a disinfectant. Lantman died within a few hours, at age 58.
Due to his early death Lantmans oeuvre has remained modest. But boy, did he master his technique and leave us some magnificent pieces of new art… Dutch New Art.
Exhibition: 14 October 2014 – 1 February 2015, at Drents Museum, Assen (NL)