Van der Zee and De Ploeg
Jan van der Zee sketched already as a young child. His drawing teacher at the ‘Hogere Burgerschool’ (HBS) in Leeuwarden introduced him to Jan Mankes, with whom he took drawing lessons for some time. From 1921 he became a student at the Academie Minerva in Groningen. On the advice of his teacher Bach, Van der Zee contacted De Ploeg in 1922. Around the turn of the year 1922/1923 he became a member and in 1923 he participated for the first time in the annual exhibition by members of De Ploeg. His work was included in the journals Het Kouter, The Next Call and in the Belgian journal De Driehoek in 1925. From 1928 to 1941 he served on the board of De Ploeg as treasurer. He was also an almost permanent member of the exhibition committee. It was on his initiative that international artists were invited to the anniversary exhibition of De Ploeg in 1933.
The first paintings that Van der Zee exhibited were modern-impressionistic of character with bright colours. In 1924 he exhibited some geometric-abstract paintings for the first time. His inclination for the abstract was reinforced by contacts with Wobbe Alkema and Bram van der Leck, and by his visit to exhibition of De Stijl with work by Huszar, Van Doesburg and Van der Leck. In 1926 he left abstraction, only to returns to it after the war. In 1933 and 1934 he had his first solo exhibitions.
After the Second World War, Van der Zee developed himself artistically in diverse directions. At the end of the 1940s, abstract compositions with bright use of colour appeared again. Colour areas were separated by heavy black contours. He also made woodcuts during these years. Jos de Gruyter called him an "expressionist realist". In 1950 he left De Ploeg and founded together with Alkema, Jordens and Kleima a new artistic society named “Het Narrenschip”. His work has been awarded prizes and has been exhibited at home and abroad after 1945. He was one of the few former members of De Ploeg who after the war, according to the art historian Henk van Os, "kept the openness to evolve, all his life."
Text: Toos Boersema
Cees Hofsteenge, De Ploeg. De hoogtijdagen, Groningen: Benjamin & Partners 1993. Adriaan Venema, De Ploeg 1918-1930, Baarn: Het Wereldvenster 1978. Han Steenbruggen (ed.), Jan van der Zee - geschilderd, gesneden, ontworpen, catalogus bij de tentoonstelling 20 juni - 5 september 1999. Groningen: Groninger Museum 1999.