Alida Pott was born on January 8, 1888 in Groningen, where her parents had a hat shop in the Brugstraat. After high school she followed courses from 1906-1916 at the Academie Minerva and was trained as a drawing teacher at the ‘Haagsche Tekenacademie’. From 1914 she taught in Groningen at the ‘Kweekschool voor Onderwijzeressen’. Four years later she became a member of De Ploeg. Not only did she draw and paint with the others on model evenings or at the Blauwbörgje, she also designed De Ploeg logo, and fulfilled various administrative tasks. After her marriage to George Martens in 1922, she spent less time on De Ploeg, because she was the breadwinner, had two children and was in poor health.
Alida Pott and De Ploeg
Stylistically Alida Pott went her own way within De Ploeg. She allowed for modern tendencies in her work, even before others discovered Expressionism or Constructivism. At the start of the association in 1918 she already had a personal style that she would not exchange for one of the directions with which the art circle became known. She was not a painter animal like most Ploeg painters, she did not venture into ‘benzinerellen’ and did not paint on plywood. With few resources she often worked delicately and transparently in watercolour or chalk on paper. Her brushstroke was restrained and had no expression of emotion. Deliberately she drew the line, as if she gave shape to an inner image. Alida Pott liked contour and strong shape. Her stylized landscapes and portraits balance on the boundary between figuration and abstraction, and generally show more clarity than much expressionist Ploeg work. Within De Ploeg her work relates to that of Jan Jordens. Both did not go along with the rugged expressionism of Wiegers, Altink and Dijkstra, nor with the constructivist working method of Alkema and Van der Zee. They were somewhere between the emotional of the expressionist and the rational of the constructivist.
Alida Pott chose her own sources of inspiration and there were quite a few. Still, she was not an epigone. In her work she achieved the spiritual refinement of decorative art directions such as Jugendstil and Japanese painting. In addition, she chose elements from the wide range of ‘isms’ but processed them personally. The angularity in her work and the reduction of space betray a relationship with the cubist expressionism of the Bergen School (Henry le Fauconnier and Else Berg), as well as with Jacoba van Heemskerck and the early Mondriaan. Her collages show parallels with the Dadaist art of Kurt Schwitters.
Alida Pott and George Martens
In literature about De Ploeg, Alida Pott's name is usually mentioned in the same breath as that of her husband. According to reviewers, she was not one of the leading members of De Ploeg and she herself contributed to this image. After all, self-promotion was not in her nature and modesty was a characteristic of her work. It was never impressive in size and was not shocked by paint treatment, drawing style or bold colour combinations. She usually painted her landscapes, portraits and still lifes on transient paper and hardly ever signed her work. Due to her family situation and fragile health, she exhibited sporadically and therefore received hardly any responses to her work. After she died of a lung disease at the age of 43, her work was preserved but not shown by George Martens. Only fifty years after her death she received a retrospective exhibition in the Freylemaborg in Slochteren in 1981 and critics appreciated her own style and orientation to modernism. Later on, presentations followed in the Groninger Museum, where in 2003 an exhibition and publication were devoted to five lesser-known Ploeg painters, including Alida Pott. That her reputation was indeed established within De Ploeg became apparent shortly after her death at the members' meeting of Friday January 8, 1932, when Jordens commemorated Alida Pott as an important member, who by her ability and her personality had been one of the most significant members of De Ploeg.
Text: Annemarie Timmer.
Cees Hofsteenge, Thijs Martens, Caspar Wechgelaer, George Martens en Alida Pott. Leven en werken, Groningen 1993. Cees Hofsteenge, De Ploeg 1918-1941. De hoogtijdagen, Groningen 1993: Benjamin & Partners. Annemarie Timmer, ‘Als het nagloeien van een intens gevoel – De Kunst van Alida Pott’ in: A. Burema et al. (eds.), Ekke A. Kleima, George G. Martens, Henk Melgers, Alida J. Pott, Jannes de Vries - Bezield met meer of minder moderne geest, Groninger Museum, Groningen 2003, pp. 48-71. Sjoukje Posthuma, ‘Alida Pott’, in: De Ploeg 1 op 1. 15 auteurs over 15 schilders. Speciale uitgave van Afslag Noord bij de tentoonstelling ‘De Ploeg: variaties in kleur, verf en vorm’, zomer 1989, p. 9.