World Fine Art Professionals and their Key-Pieces, 119 - Cora Beijersbergen van Henegouwen
I visit Cora Beijersbergen van Henegouwen in her studio at the Beeklaan, The Hague. The studio is located to the left of the spacy livingroom, where the Beeklaan light enters in abundance. She has just returned from a holiday in the south of France, where she has been drawing and painting with a number of colleagues. On the easel is a work which she started there, a figure in a vast landscape.
For quite a long time Cora Beijersbergen painted portraits. She still does, but something came in: free painting. With that free painting she is most engaged now. She loves to experiment with multiple materials. At the same time she gives room to coincidence. She is reluctant to color. There is a lot of brown, grey and here and there yellow.
Cora: “I am an optimist by nature, but also see the beauty in transience of nature. I recently sold a drawing with skeletal forms. If you look closely you can see these fascinating shapes and colors. With the free work I now do I try to achieve some kind of depth. If you look carefully and a little longer, you see so much more. If I go by tram, I usually walk fast to the stop here at Beeklaan. But sometimes I deliberately walk slower and take everything in me. You do not know what you see!
She refers to a poem by Cees Buddingh’ entitled ‘no scissors’. It reads as follows:
‘hey, it looks like a pair of scissors,
what there is on the ground,’ I thought,
‘a dusty, grey green scissors’
but when I looked closer I saw
it was not scissors
but an elastic, fallen together
in the shape of a pair of scissors
She shows me an example of a free portrait. It is a portrait of Bert, an elderly man in a raincoat and a glass in his hand. It is painted with loose, rough brushstrokes. Besides a portrait of a boy who is painted on the opposite way, very precise and meticulous. “I was commissioned by the grandfather of the boy.”
Not long ago Rainer Bullhorst, curator of exhibitions at Pulchri, asked her to make a work in response to a story by Friedrich Schiller. She shows the book, with a yellow cover. It’s about the Queen of Scotland in the 16th century, Mary Stuart. “She was held captive on an estate with a big wall around it. All she saw from the outside world were the clouds drifting by. These clouds she saw as ‘ships to freedom’.“
She started it, but it didn’t work. When she was on holiday in Italy, in Lucca, she made sketches of walls. “You have all the old walls there. All with a story. I experimented with the materials I used. It turned out that I was working towards abstraction. Gradually new opportunities emerged on how I should do that painting of Mary Stuart. I then went to work and it succeeded. In hindsight I can describe this work as a key work, a work that represents a tipping point.” The work has been sold. On the wall I see another wall painting, a big high wall with rags in front.
It motivated her to continue on this path. “It was a turning point. I like to constantly make steps in my development. I’m looking for the challenge. You should not linger in what you can do well.”
Cora Beijersbergen van Hengouwen feels her whole life artist. “As a child I was already drawing and doing crafts. We lived close tot he Royal Academy of Fine Arts. My father had a cafe opposite the Central Station, de Uiver. He encouraged me – and my brother – to go into the arts. My brother went to the conservatory and became a concert pianist (he is sadly deceased) and I went after the MMS to the Royal Academy.”
At the Royal Academy she was pushed in a straitjacket, she finds afterwards. “Because I had been on MMS – a girls High School – I found myself in the direction of N11. That was about fashion design and illustration. And you could get a teaching qualification. So you got, besides material knowledge, much pedagogy.” But she didn’t have an inclination for teaching. She therefore went to the Vrije Academie, also in The Hague. “It was the time of George Lampe, Nol Kroes and Hessel de Boer (portrait painter). I owe a lot to the latter. It was the reason for my choice for portrait painting.”
Known Leiden persons
During those years she also worked in The Hague Gemeentemuseum in the Prentenkabinet (the Print Room). She looks back on that with pleasure. For a time she was mainly concerned with raising her children and when they were grown up she made portraits, mostly commissioned. Until two / three years ago it was her main occupation. Until she started a second drawing and painting life with ‘free painting’.
She teaches in Voorschoten at the Volksuniversiteit (Adult Education Center). It is part of B + C Leiden. She gives lessons in portrait drawing and portrait painting. There have been exhibitions in the library of B + C. With portraits of Leiden citizens: Peter Labruyère, who makes boattrips in the Leiden canals, Bep the medium, she can predict the future, and Maarten Biesheuvel, the writer.
She is active in Pulchri. There she is in the club committee. She is also a member of Haagse Kunstkring (The Hague Art Circle), Art Group Wassenaar and the balloting committee of this art group. “It’s a fun world. I know a lot of people.”
When she is working, music is on. Radio 4 Classic. I can hear it softly. “Music is very important to me. Classical music. “Look and listen carefully” she concludes. “And try to do it – if possible – with new eyes and new ears.”