Reinier Lucassen (b. 1939)


Image from Zondagmorgen by Allen & Overy
Year: 1968
Material: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 200 × 170 cm

During the late summer of 1967, three artist friends, Jan Dibbets, Ger van Elk and Reinier Lucassen formed a short-lived art association: The International Institute for the Re-education of Artists (Het Internationaal Instituut voor Herscholing van Kunstenaars). Together, they took a stance against what they considered the mediocre Dutch art climate. The three gentlemen offered retraining courses for artists through advertisements (Let’s happily paint together) and even offered their advisory services to collectors. A year later, the collaboration had already come to an end and although this very playful footnote is often cited in art history, Lucassen will mainly be associated with another art movement: the Nieuwe Figuratie (New Figuration).

The Nieuwe Figuratie is a collective name for a group of Dutch and Flemish artists, including Roger Raveel, Alphons Freymuth, Raoul de Keyser, Jan Roeland and Reinier Lucassen. Although they rarely made public appearances as a group, they clearly shared the same vision of painting. Pop Art has been regarded as a source of inspiration for the Nieuwe Figuratie. But while Pop Art emphasises the banality and meaninglessness of everyday things, the Nieuwe Figuratie is all about expressiveness and content. The paintings are one- or two dimensional and often figurative and abstract elements are combined, which is also found in the work of British artist David Hockney, who was admired by the group during the 1960s.

The title of this painting by Lucassen, which derives directly from Ger van Elk’s legacy, immediately sets the tone. Looking at Zondagmorgen (Sunday Morning), the song Tante Julia (Aunt Julia) by Dutch folk singer/songwriter Boudewijn de Groot, springs to mind: “When I was a little boy, Sunday morning was hell. The pastor told me what I was not allowed and what I was allowed, as well. And God always was scary and strict like the police, so I obediently gave my sticky penny to Church as a tithe to please.

Zondagmorgen was painted in 1968, a very turbulent year for Europe. It is the year of the massive student uprisings in Paris and just before that in the Netherlands, Provo clearly showed that secularisation is a steady and irreversible process. Mom and dad still dutifully attend the Sunday service, but the little boy behind them has already let go of his parents’ hands and will soon be going his own way. The cloud (or forest) to the viewer’s right side of the boy is significantly brighter than the dark forest surrounding his parents’ path of life.

Lucassen paints the impending revolutions in a distinctly melancholic way. Zondagmorgen does not seem to be his way of giving the older generation a hard time, like many of his contemporaries so crudely do during those turbulent years. Being a thoughtful and intelligent observer, he knows that change is a recurring theme and that there is always a new generation ready to take over from the previous one.

Image from Zondagmorgen by Allen & Overy