Always on show

Jan Sluijters: master painter of modernism

Permanent collection

Born and raised in 's-Hertogenbosch, Jan Sluijters (1881-1957) is an important artist for Het Noordbrabants Museum. It was in this city that the young painter took his first steps towards becoming an artist, before developing into a master of Dutch modernism. Our Sluijters collection is correspondingly large, and contains many masterpieces. From colourful Brabant meadows and fascinating portraits, to extraordinary figure studies and, of course, public favourite Liesje's birthday. Come and admire a spectacular overview of Sluijters' oeuvre!

Little Jan has talent

In 1881, one of the country's most important modernists was born in the Brabant capital. It soon became apparent that Sluijters had a flair for drawing. As a young boy, he learned the skill from his father, an engraver who completed many commissions from home. It turned out to be the perfect schooling as, in no time, he found himself at the Royal School for Applied and Fine Arts, where he developed his talent.

Aged 13, the young Sluijters moved with his parents and three sisters to Amsterdam. This proved the ideal place to get his career as a painter off the ground. From the capital city, the young artist visited Italy, Spain, and France, but always returned to Amsterdam, where he developed into an unparalleled innovator in Dutch painting.


In 1904, Sluijters won the Prix de Rome: the oldest and most prestigious prize for talented artists and architects in the Netherlands, which goes hand in hand with a scholarship. An honour indeed! It was all going swimmingly until, two years later, Sluijters paid a sneaky visit to Paris. At that time, Paris was the capital of modern art. He encountered fauvism (an art movement in which bright colours dominate) and was instantly smitten. He incorporated the modern, 'wild' influences in his work, and duly lost his scholarship. In his view, this was deeply unfair. Once back in the Netherlands, Sluijters added even more colour to his Parisian experiences and was hugely instrumental in the development of modern art in the Netherlands.

Light and intense colour

A few years later, in 1909 to be precise, Sluijters returned to his birthplace, Brabant. He was keen to get fresh inspiration, in the artists' village of Heeze. He painted farms, forest paths, and idyllic orchards in delicate strokes and hues. In his landscapes, he once again experimented extensively with light and colour. Interestingly, for special effect he would sometimes use the back of his brush.

This emphasis on capturing light and intense colour came to be known as luminism. Sluijters expressed his feelings in colour, yet remained faithful to reality. Shades of blue-green and purple were typical of his Brabant period. Along with Piet Mondriaan and Leo Gestel, Sluijters was at the vanguard of the thrilling luminist movement.

The Netherlands' leading portrait painter

You may know Sluijters chiefly for his colourful landscapes and cityscapes, but he was also renowned as our country's leading portrait painter. His portraits of women and children were particularly popular. He also did portraits of many prominent public figures. The painter had acquired an interesting and wealthy client base of politicians, prelates, industrialists, musicians, actors, and art collectors. Many of the portraits were commissioned, but he also painted on his own initiative. Sluijters was more than happy to invite not just flamboyant people to his studio, but also distinctly ordinary individuals, whom he could jazz up with a hat or a scarf. He also enjoyed getting his wife Greet and his children Loes, Jan, Rob, and Lies to pose for him.

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