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The Dutch Modernist who painted portraits and nature-based abstraction on an intimate scale: Edgar Fernhout



Painting still life and portraits in the early stage of his career, this painter gradually moved towards landscapes and abstraction. Edgar Fernhout was born on this day, August 17, 1912.

Hailng from a family of artists, Edgar was the son of artist Charley Toorop and philosopher Henk Fernhout. He was a second-generation artist, among three generations of artists in his family. His son Rik Fernhout is also a painter.


Fernhout was strongly influenced by his mother at the start of his career, and he made small, realistic portraits, self-portraits and still life under her mentorship. However, he was troubled by the fact that he was always compared to his mother. This only changed after her death in 1955. Charley’s many contacts in the art world led to Edgar meeting the avant garde artist Piet Mondrian, whose influence on Edgar’s later paintings are hard to miss.


Fernhout had his first solo exhibition at the age of 20. He regularly showed his work in the gallery of Magdalena Sothmann in Amsterdam. Later his work was also shown in museums, including the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven. In 1990 a major retrospective of Edgar Fernhout was shown in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.


The paintings of Jean Bazaine and other French artists inspired him to experiment with light, and thereby his painting style leaned more and more towards abstraction. Now he found his own style, a new language, in which he painted nature on a small scale, represented through colour and rhythm.

At the beginning of the sixties, Fernhout painted a series of seas and dunes at Bergen, Netherlands, his birthplace. In addition, he painted his most important abstract works \’Autumn\’ (1973) and \’Spring\’ (1974) here. He died in November 1974 in Bergen.

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