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 Maarten Krabbe  (1908 - 2005)

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Lived/Active: Netherlands      Known for: Painting, art education

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Maarten Krabbé (Laren, 22 February 1908 – Amsterdam, 18 February 2005)

A Dutch painter and art educator, he is the son of painter Hendrik Maarten Krabbé (1868–1931) and singer Miep Rust (1874–1956).  His sisters were Henny Eskens-Krabbé who was a resistance fighter in World War II and Lies van Buren-Krabbé.

Krabbé grew up in Het Gooi, where he intensively enjoyed being surrounded by nature.  This would manifest itself in his art work later on in life.  In 1913 he moved with his family to Bussum and in 1922 to Zandvoort.

After three years in high school (HBS) in Haarlem, his father gave him his blessing to become a painter.  He then enrolled at the National Academy for the Visual Arts (Rijksacademie voor Beeldende Kunsten) in Amsterdam from 1926–1930.

In his youth Krabbé studied the Face Book (Gelatenboek) by Petrus Camper (1780) and found his inspiration as a painter in Cubism, children’s drawings, Joseph René Gockinga (1893–1962) and Aubrey Beardsley.  When still quite young he discovered the experimental technique of automatic drawing – finding shapes in accidental lines.  He was also very sensitive to the power of words, corresponding with writers and poets including Frederik van Eeden, Dulac, Dr. Paul Gachet who was physician to Vincent van Gogh, Carmiggelt and colleague, the painter Melle Oldeboerrigter.

As a more mature artist one can see in his work how he explores styles and compositions of well-known colleagues in order to find out what makes them so special.  We see works (paintings, etchings, drawings, gouaches) in the styles of, among others, Cézanne, Matisse, Géricault, Picasso, Doré, Vuillard and Klee, but always in his own stroke and with the liveliness that characterizes all of his work.  Like his father he painted portraits by commission, among which is one of family members of Vincent van Gogh.  In the war years of 1940 -1945, the now famous series of etchings was created on the subject of Cervantes's Don Quixote.  After the war, these 18 etchings found their way to the Museo Casa Natal de Cervantes in Spain and just before his death eight masterly oil paintings on the same subject went to the same museum.  In 1949 he created drawings and gouaches for the Bible.  In the 1970s he painted a series of 72 gouaches on themes from A Thousand and One Nights.  His later paintings, such as the Gardens breathe a very personal atmosphere with a power of color and optimism more likely to be associated with a younger painter.

Maarten Krabbé developed into an important art educator, an innovator of drawing education for children.  His thesis was that one should take the children’s own poetry as point of departure.  By way of exploring techniques as an adventure and with his own poetic stories he created an unlimited space of fantasy for children from which they could create.  For example:

There are trees that dream of undertaking faraway journeys.  Therefore they stand very straight and tall, hoping they will be selected to be the mast of a ship.  On the other hand there are trees that are thoroughly content with the little plot of land they grow on.  They bend and bow in every direction to see as much as possible of what happens on their little plot.  They are bent and gnarled.  Other trees look like they are shouting; 'Hooray!' They stretch their arms up to the sun, the clouds and the heavens…

He wrote many publications on art education for children in elementary school and high school, as well as for students of the teachers' colleges.  His lectures throughout the Netherlands generated great enthusiasm because of his open, creative approach concerning art and children.  Among others, he taught at the Kohnstamm School and the Adult Education Centre of Amsterdam.  In the mid-1950s Krabbé had a TV programme in which he taught children how to draw.

Krabbé married Margreet Reiss, a writer and translator.  They had two sons: author Tim Krabbé and Jeroen Krabbé who became an actor, director and painter.  In the mid-1950s they were divorced and in 1959 he married again, this time to Helena Verschuur.  They had a son, designer and painter Mirko Krabbé.


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