Johan Dijkstra visited the three-year ‘Hogere Burgerschool’ (HBS) and took afternoon lessons at the Academie Minerva in 1915. In 1919 he received the bronze academy medal for his work. From 1919 to 1920 he studied at the ‘Rijksacademie’ in Amsterdam, where in 1920 he completed the ‘M.O. Tekenen’ (i.e. teaching certificate for drawing at high schools). Johan Dijkstra was one of the founders of De Ploeg, but could in the early years not be an active member due to his stay in Amsterdam. Back in Groningen, he made his living by making illustrations and advertising work. In April 1923 Dijkstra organized with Altink and Wiegers the first lustrum of De Ploeg at Blauwbörgje, a place just outside the city where many Ploeg members went to paint. From early 1926 to 1940 Dijkstra exhibited outside Groningen almost every year. He also had solo exhibitions in Groningen at Pictura, in Amsterdam and The Hague. Between 1928 and 1940 he no longer had formal positions at De Ploeg, but he did his best to expand the number of members. In his efforts to enlarge De Ploeg, he found an opponent in Werkman. Since 1930 he wrote reviews for the ‘Provinciale Groninger Courant’, which made him part of the establishment according to many members of De Ploeg.
Dijkstra took part in the first exhibition of De Ploeg in 1919. The reactions in the press were positive. In 1921 he started experimenting with colour and technique. He was influenced by French and Flemish painters, whom he got to know through their exhibitions at Pictura. He was also very much inspired by Vincent van Gogh in these years. Dijkstra also painted agricultural labour and farm life. His graphic work was prominently present at De Ploeg exhibitions. Between 1925 and 1930 an extensive oeuvre was created with various techniques, including the well-known woodcut “Chez Dicque” which shows some of the team members visiting their favourite ‘Café Dik’.
In 1927 he made the famous portrait of Jan Wiegers. Because of Dijkstra's activities in the field of monumental art, in particular stained-glass windows, his graphic work moved to the background in the 1930s. In the late 1920s, the influence of expressionism on Dijkstra's work diminished. Around 1930 he started experimenting with glass painting and took lessons with glaziers. He made windows for the auditorium of the University of Groningen and designed the tapestries for the room of the ‘Eerste Kamer’ of the national parliament in The Hague. He also applied murals in the Groningen city hall. During the Second World War he made many landscape sets that bore a documentary character. After the war he resumed his work as a reviewer; his reviews had a polarizing character and earned him supporters and opponents. He exhibited with De Ploeg until the 1970s.
Text: Toos Boersema.
Adriaan Venema, De Ploeg 1918-1930, Baarn: Het Wereldvenster 1978. Cees Hofsteenge, De Ploeg 1918-1941, De hoogtijdagen. Groningen: Benjamin & Partners 1993. Anneke de Vries, Vergezichten. Het Grafische Werk van Johan Dijkstra, Zwolle: WBooks 2020.