The Mystery that is Woman

It all started with the influence of Massimo Campigli - an influence that is clearly visible in the early Hofhuizen works shown here. They date from the mid and late 1940s, but the faces of the women depicted in them already show characteristics of the "Hofhuizen woman" and are converging towards one particular woman.


It is tempting to think that this woman is the most important woman in Willem Hofhuizen's life, Jos Hagemeijer. To Hofhuizen, she was the archetypal woman, not in the Jungian sense but in the Aristotelean sense: the source of life but also "the all-embracing being" and "one with nature". There is one particular image that kept recurring in Hofhuizen's paintings until his death: the image of "La belle indifference". Virtually always in a dress or wide skirt, with a pearl necklace and in a modest, graceful posture. Long dark hair, whether or not in a bun or ponytail. Small feet, plump thighs (in later paintings) and a long neck. The hands small and positioned inwards. The remarkable thing about the woman in the painting below is that she is faceless - which explains the title that Hofhuizen gave it:

 


The Mystery that is Woman
Oil on canvas 120x100
1964

Hofhuizen's use of color patches in "The Mystery that is Woman" betrays an influence of Henri Matisse. Still, he keeps true to his own style. This work in fact marked the birth of the ultimate "Hofhuizen woman". And yes, she is Jos Hagemeijer, the woman he loved with his entire being, in her familiar pose and this time without a face. As mentioned earlier, she kept recurring prominently in Hofhuizen's paintings in many different and ever more colorful guises, but the essential form always remained the same: the "typical Hofhuizen woman". Indeed, if there is a single most important Hofhuizen motif, this must be it.

Incidentally, the foot cushion, the chair and the lampshade also kept recurring in Hofhuizen's paintings, even though he could only paint them from memory.