De Ploeg and expressionism

At an early stage a group of painters which took its inspiration from Expressionism, was formed within ‘De Ploeg’, led by Jan Wiegers. From 1922 on, they had a major influence on all the association’s activities. Wiegers’ art had already tended towards Expressionism but it wasn’t until he travelled to Switzerland that he was fully converted. Illness brought him to Davos in 1920-1921, where he became acquainted with the leading light of the German Expressionist movement, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. His personality and style made a lasting impression on Wiegers and when he regained his health he introduced the new trend in Groningen. Wiegers inspired Altink, Dijkstra, Werkman, Martens and others to experiment with colour, wax paint and expressive forms of graphic art.

  • Jan Wiegers - Interieur Bohemien
  • Jan Altink - Na het bezoek
  • Johan Dijkstra - Negerportret
  • Hendrik Werkman - Renpaarden
  • George Martens - Stadsgezicht bij maanlicht

The Expressionism of ‘De Ploeg’ has its roots in the work of Vincent Van Gogh, Edvard Munch and Piet Van Wijngaerdt, yet found its framework in the work of Kirchner. 
The period during which Groninger Expressionism was at the fore within ‘De Ploeg’, did not last long. Wiegers and Altink toned down their palette somewhere around 1926 and Dijkstra reverted to a more impressionist way of working three years later. Werkman hadn’t been so strongly swayed by Kirchner’s style as they had been, and went on to develop his own expressionist style of painting, although his main concern lay in printing. He started off using his hand-press, and then switched to stamp and stencil techniques, to make the prints, both figurative and abstract, which were to become famous.