Ode to my father

Reviled and praised: the very fact that some of Willem Hofhuizen’s critics went to great lengths to point out that his unique style was in fact a mixture of styles from the past, or that he had a “preoccupation with nudes”, indicates that they felt uncomfortable with their assessment, to say the least. It is curious to see how the essence of Hofhuizen’s work eluded many of his contemporaries. Some critics even called him a mannerist.

A brief explanation is in order here. Mannerism is a late-renaissance movement (1550-1580) whose proponents sought to create dramatic and dynamic effects by depicting humans and animals with elongated forms and in exaggerated, out-of-balance poses. Even Michelangelo has been called a Mannerist – indeed, a number of his sculptures feature horses or human figures that seem to be on the verge of losing their balance. Mannerism was an exciting new development at a time when the primary purpose of art was to inspire awe and devotion.

But if you look at Hofhuizen’s works, the first thing that strikes you is that his paintings are static. It is really very simple. Elongated forms, yes, but only for the sake of added gracefulness. Call it gothicism, if you will, but not mannerism.

Praise – Willem Hofhuizen was widely regarded as a true master in the use of colors. One critic called his paintings “Mozartian color symphonies”, and he was also praised for his extremely delicate brushstrokes and for “sublimating classicist elements into a contemporary style”.

These are just a few examples of what Hofhuizen’s contemporaries had to say about him. They present a mixed picture. But we have the benefit of hindsight, and that is why we have created this interactive web document in which we will try to explain the background to Willem Hofhuizen’s style, emotions and development. Time will tell whether Hofhuizen’s art is truly monumental and whether it will secure itself an important place in art history.

But we hope this web document will help to give his work the place it deserves. We also hope it will give the viewer a better understanding of the man behind the artist. After all, Willem Hofhuizen's paintings reflect his inner world, in which man (more specifically, the archetypal woman) plays a dominant role. In many of his paintings he is one of the onlookers at the scene, looking over other people's shoulders and satisfied with what he sees. It is his world, which he depicts in his own characteristic manner, in which the transparency of materials plays a major role.


Maastricht, January 2004