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Martinus Johannes "Tinus" de Jongh (1885 -1942)
Self-taught, he began his career as a decorator in Holland, and then pursued painting full-time. He achieved some note when the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam purchased one of his early pictures.
Forbidden to study art, he took a post with a firm of decorators in Amsterdam, but left after two years to concentrate on painting - focusing on painting street scenes, interiors and landscapes in Amsterdam.
He then moved to South Africa and began painting views of Cape Town.
His father was the rector of a gymnasium and on completion of his schooling in 1900, his desire for an artistic career met with considerable parental opposition. He was however enrolled at the Ambachtsscolen in Amsterdam to serve an apprenticeship as a “decourateur”. Here he received a basic grounding in painting techniques and the properties of paints and after 2 years was presented with first prize, ironically presented by President Paul Kruger who was in exile from South Africa.
He spent the next 2 years developing an individual technique, during which time he worked as an interior decorator to earn a living, but he found it unrewarding, preferring to devote his entire time to art. He haunted the streets, squares and canals of the old city sketching and painting, despite parental opposition.
Two years later he entered an art school but self tuition had made him independent and he had difficulty moulding his technique to that of his tutors. After 2 years he left to persue a career as a professional artist and studied the works of the contemporary ‘Hague School” of artists.
There was a great deal of interest shown in his work and various art societies, civic bodies and private individuals purchased his work.
In 1911 on April 20, he married Johanna Maria Verhoef, and they had 3 children Wilhelmina, Gabriel and Petronella.
In 1912 he was granted permission by HM Queen Wilhelmina to paint scenes of interest from within and around the royal palace, particularly of the Dam Square, which was re-designed and re-opened in 1914 and his work was acclaimed for it’s historical content.
During his lifetime his works were purchased by the Rijksmuseum which subsequently built up a collection of his urban scenes.
Tinus began to travel into the rural areas to paint landscapes. After the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 he spent time in the civil defense corps, but became ill and endured a long and slow convalescence in an austere post war environment.
A visit from his brother-in-law, Louis Verhoef, in 1921 encouraged him to immigrate to South Africa later that same year. He arrived in South Africa in 1921, practicing a sober style within the Dutch tradition, typified by Still Life with Birds and Hare.
Upon his arrival in Cape Town he began to paint many city scenes which were purchased by banks, private institutions and private patrons.
His first public commission was to paint the Houses of Parliament, which was hung in the office of the High Commissioner in London. He also completed a series of city scenes.
His family eventually arrived and settled in Fish Hoek where they stayed for 6 months, during which time they became active members of the Hollandse Kring and Tinus took the opportunity to paint the surrounding landscape.
In 1922 they moved to Heathfield and Tinus held an exhibition in Port Elizabeth that same year. The complete collection was purchased by the owner of the Park Hotel, Herman Sammel. With the proceeds he purchased a car and began to travel further inland, coming into contact with the rugged mountains he depicted so dramatically and for which he has become famous.
He moved to Rondebosch in 1923 and was commissioned by various faculty heads of the University of Cape Town to paint a series of medical illustrations for the tuition of medical students and these are still housed there today in the university archives. In 1933 he and his family embarked on a caravan trip to Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) En route he painted in the Cango Caves and at Victoria Falls he painted 11 scenes, exhibiting them in the drawing room of the Victoria Falls Hotel.
He traveled on to the Drakensberg and Golden Gate areas, after which he held an exhibition in Durban. It was here that he painted the portrait of a rickshaw boy which was subsequently exhibited at the Paris salon and the Royal Academy in London.
There were also exhibitions in the Arlington Gallery Old Bond Street London and in Burton-upon-trent in 1933 /34.
He was a versatile artist and in 1936 carved a bas-relief sculpture in slate of the arrival of Jan van Riebeek’s ship, the Drommedaris, in Table Bay for Alex van Niekerk. During this time he had been developing a palette-knife technique to convey greater emphasis on luminous light and to capture the ruggedness of the scenery.
He held a very successful exhibition in conjunction with his son Gabriel, who he had tutored, at the Riviera Hotel Hermanus in 1937. Keen collectors and patrons of his works were the parents of iconic female artist Helen Anne Petrie.
The following year they both spent time touring the Koue Bokkeveld and he was overwhelmingly impressed by the brilliant colours and harsh light. He dispensed completely with his usual dark palette and began to paint broadly with overall luminous light in a new impressionist style.
The light and landscape of South Africa soon caused him to abandon his muted palette in favour of more saturated colours. His formulaic approach to painting Cape landscapes with gabled farmhouses created such a demand that he abandoned his considered brushwork in favour of a broader palette knife technique. His etchings sold in the hundreds through his dealer Louis Woolf.
A small museum in the grounds of the Lanzerac Hotel in Stellenbosch houses a permanent commemorative exhibit of De Jongh's works.
A painting of the South African Houses of Parliament was purchased by the South African Government for the office of the High Commissioner in London
Tinus was the father of Gabriel de Jongh, who in his turn became a well kown painter of landscapes in South Africa. The younger de Jongh died circa 2006.
The Strutt Family Trust, The Mayfair Collection (Suisse) SA, The Mayfair Collection (Pty) Ltd, The Mayfair Collection Limited