Already at the age of 13, Jan Wiegers was registered as a student of the three-year starting course of Academie Minerva. Because of his ill health, he had to cancel his sculpting lessons and switched to painting. After his education he went to Germany in 1911 to work there and in 1912 he attended the Sonderbund Exhibition in Cologne, a major international exhibition of early modern art. In 1914 he returned to The Netherlands and continued his education at the Academie Minerva. He also took lessons at the academies in Rotterdam and The Hague. Wiegers was one of the founders of De Ploeg in 1918.
In 1920 his art friends financially enabled him to take a year's treatment in Davos. His health quickly recovered there and he was able to work plenty. He came into contact with Ernst Ludwig Kirchner through his doctor, and a close friendship developed between the two that lasted until Kirchner's death in 1938. Kirchner did not consider Wiegers as an apprentice, but as a fellow artist. In Switzerland, Wiegers became acquainted with Kirchner's expressionism and since then his work was greatly influence by it. Back in Groningen, when the members of De Ploeg saw his new work became likewise deeply influenced by the expressionist style.
Wiegers received invitations for exhibitions in Paris and Antwerp in 1922. In 1923 he became chairman of De Ploeg and later vice-secretary. He was very active in the association, but in 1930 suspended his membership for a year because of disagreements. Together with Jan van der Zee, he made the proposal for the international exhibition in Groningen in 1933 and was closely involved in the preparations and its organization. He also exhibited in Budapest in 1933. In 1934 Wiegers moved to Amsterdam, but he always remained a member of De Ploeg. After the Second World War, Wiegers took part in the exhibitions of De Ploeg until 1948.
Wiegers and De Ploeg
Before 1920, Wiegers experimented with different modern styles. Kirchner's seed probably fell on a plowed field. At his first exhibition of De Ploeg after his return to the Netherlands, a considerable number of works by Wiegers were on display that surprised the reviewers and critics in a positive way. Under his influence, a more or less collective (expressionist) style arose among the members De Ploeg, which lasted until about 1927. This period is generally regarded as the most important for De Ploeg. Wiegers not only painted, but also made woodcuts, etchings and lino cuts. He also lit the others in this. After 1927 his work became more impressionistic. In the 1930s his work was often on display. After World War II his work is called more powerful and also was internationally appreciated. In 1953 he was appointed professor at the ‘Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten’ in Amsterdam.
Text: Toos Boersema
Cees Hofsteenge, De Ploeg 1918-1941, De hoogtijdagen. Groningen: Benjamin & Partners 1993. Adriaan Venema, De Ploeg 1918-1930, Baarn: Het Wereldvenster 1978. Han Steenbruggen and Patty Wageman (eds.), Jan Wiegers - de ceremoniemeester heeft het spel laten beginnen, tentoonstelling Jan Wiegers - Groningen, Davos 13 oktober 2001- 3 maart 2002, Groningen: Groninger Museum 2001.