boekomslag - Gezien van de RietGezien had an artistic talent and was attracted to art since youth, but she started out on a professional career – as a teacher, education expert and sociologist – which eventually brought her to South America. Her work with Bolivian indigenous people allowed her to combine her different skills in the development of illustrated education material. On one of her trips, as she describes, looking out from a plane window (on which a fly was sitting) on the harsh but stunning beauty of the Bolivian Andes, she made a vow: she wanted to qualify seriously in free pictorial art. She started following evening classes at the La Paz School of Arts, where director Alberto Medina recognized and stimulated her talent. Her first exhibitions –and her first success– also took place in La Paz.

Once returned to the Netherlands, Gezien was confronted with the still prevailing wintry climate of modernism, and for a while she had the illusion that she was perhaps the only figurative artist in the country. This was until she discovered the so-called Northern Figurative School centred on Groningen and the Minerva Academy. She came into contact with one of its exponents: the painter, teacher, and art theoretician Diederik Kraaijpoel. As he describes in his article, he signalled her ‘eagerly learning talent’ as he tried to convey in a quarter of an hour his knowledge gained in half a century. One of the things he taught Gezien was the effective use of colour in figurative art. He stresses the value of craftmanship and holds the view that a contemporary artist can and should also build on the tradition of its predecessors – which Gezien does, as he points out.

Another platform for figurative art in the Netherlands is Museum Møhlmann, the initiative of Rob and Laura Møhlmann, who organize the yearly Independent Realists’ Exhibition. In his article still life painter Rob Møhlmann relates Gezien’s drawings of the human being to her professional interest in people and notes how a single pencil stroke brings to life a sketchily drawn human figure. He describes how she later came to painting landscapes and trees.

Art historian Leo van Heijningen was one of the first to start an art gallery for figurative art in The Hague: Kunstzaal Van Heijningen. In his article he describes a walk in the woods near Gezien’s home in Castricum. “Look at the beauty of those beeches,” he hears her say. Leo van Heijningen thinks her use of the word ‘beauty’ refreshingly old-fashioned and is drawn into a historical-philosophical discussion with Gezien about its implications.

In her own article, Gezien van de Riet expands some more on the ongoing dispute between modernist and figurative art. Nineteenth-century American and Russian landscape painters were among those that inspired her. It is possible to follow ‘life’ or ‘nature’ to capture beauty, not by apish copying, but by studious interpretation through oil or crayon on canvas, wood or paper.

The book contains more than 150 illustrations, 66 of them in full colour, and offers great variety in techniques and subject matter. Preview (PDF).

For sale in several museums, such as the Drents Museum, Museum De Buitenplaats and the better bookstore.
Online available at Boekhandel Laan.

Is realism not banal? Film fragments of an interview:

Book presentation in Kunstzaal van Heijningen, November 2008. From left to right: window display; Jeroen Strengers interviews Gezien van de Riet; visitors with Marijke Cosse (third from the left); Leo van Heijningen; presentation of the book to Rob Geurten; with Diederik Kraaijpoel; with Yolanda Kraaijpoel.


Gezien gives lectures about realism. Already the Greeks were discussing the question ‘imitation’ and ‘imagination’. With many slides, also about contemporary realism.

Realism issues

She held the inauguration speech at Drago Pecenica’s exhibition ‘Fifty years of Drago’ in Museum Mohlmann (2012). “Is detailing dangerous?” “How does Drago achieve that soft luminescence in his works?” See film.

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