Jan Snijder


Jan Snijder keeps a sort of visual diary full of sketches of places dear to him for one reason or another. They are sketchbooks that are important to us, too. Not only do they offer an insight into his inner perception of the environment, they also show a fascinating picture of the road the painter travelled. Looking at these sketchbooks is the best way to say something about Jan Snijder's paintings.

It is remarkable that most paintings bear rather familiar titles such as 'Haven den Helder', Amelân', 'Boskr’ne' and 'Wei by Duerswâld'. The sketches are to be viewed without any further elucidation. In spite of the fact that the sketches are impressions of similar landscapes, from a topographical point of view they seem to be unimportant. They are nameless. The suggestion of a particular atmosphere, a natural or organic form and the representation of a specific time of day seem more important than the location. Thanks to the economical use of colour and lines they are almost stenographic notes with a strongly autonomous power of expression. Jan Snijder's sketches make a more or less abstract impression and so show that not the landscape but the subjective observation is his subject.

Apart from observation it is also painting itself that matters. His observations are mainly represented in very old materials such as drawing chalk and egg distemper. His anti-naturalist style, too, and his modest, tonal palette are reminiscent of premodern times. For instance, Jan Snijder avoids clear colours like red, yellow and blue. He also avoids vivid combinations of colours that are diametrically opposed in the colour circle such as red-green, blueorange and yellow-violet. For that reason he is the opposite of an impressionist. A typically impressionist snow landscape, for instance, would be laid out in three parts: the air might be yellow, the snow blue and the trees and hedges red. Each of these parts could be 'embellished' by its complementary, secondary colour. The clouds in the sky may be violet, the snow in the forefront orange and the red trees etc. would be adorned with green spots. The selftaught painter Jan Snijder never needed to learn the scientific colour schemes of Newton or Goethe and does not really need them for his purpose.

In Jan Snijder's modest work there is a subtle coherence between the transparent and flowing qualities of the material used, the passing of time and the personal way of looking back. The distemper paintings, for instance, are often based on a double memory. The first is an impulse from the sketchbook and the second memory is remembering the time or event, when he was first touched by that spot. A similar smell, a quiet moment, a sound or a similar glitter of light are sufficient to bring back a memory. Jan Snijder's observations are not only guided by seeing visible phenomena, but also by existential questions, such as actually being in a certain place. 'To me it is a matter of the sound I remember of the days when, as a child, I walked through the fields with my father looking for lapwing's eggs or when I was fishing offshore on the island of Ameland,' he wrote in 2002. For him it is not a matter of big issues, for instance of life and death, but it is about the small things dormant in his subconscious; things that determined the course of his life without his being aware of it.

Landscapes have always served as sources of relaxation and contemplation. By returning, both literally and figuratively, to the familiar experiences of his youth Jan Snijder expressed his inner perception of his environment in landscapes. In returning to the archetypes of sea, beach and ditch, in picturing these archetypes in a lyrical, but otherwise hardly spectacular way, he has always been himself, as a painter and as a human being.

Rudy Hodel