Joh. G. Wertheim | Museum Beelden aan Zee | Beeldhouwkunst in Den Haag

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Joh. G. Wertheim

30 October 2015 - 7 February 2016

Joh. G. Wertheim

From Banker to Sculptor

Joh. G. Wertheim (1898-1977) grew up in a banker's family. Much like the rest of his family Van Jobs (as he was called by his intimates) was also expected to take a career in the banking world/ It was different. During his internship in Hamburg however, Wertheim started following drawing classes and sculpture lessons in his spare time. He even won the Prix de Rome in 1926.

Now he is best known for his portraits, medallions and nudes. After the Second World War he focused on war memorials. Wertheim was also a committed artist and devoted himself to the interest in art among the general public. To this end, he founded the Public Art Property Foundation in 1957. A cross-section of his oeuvre can be seen in the exhibition at the Beelden aan Zee museum; the first major retrospective exhibition dedicated to this Dutch sculptor.

In a letter he wrote to his parents Wertheim called the sculpting lessons that he followed in Hamburg 'divine'. And that he realized that he did not aspire to a bank career, but rather spend his days as a sculptor. His parents initially were less enthusiastic about this idea, so the young Jobs was assigned by his father to make a portrait bust of him, just to prove that Jobs was talented enough. The result would be judged by befriended art connoisseurs who rated the work positively. In 1925 Wertheim left for Berlin to study with the sculptor Alexander Oppler (1869-1937). Quite prematurely he decided to compete for the Prix de Rome, the four-yearly prize of the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam. To everyone's surprise, he won which enabled to study in Florence, Rome and Paris.

Back in Amsterdam, he worked on a large number of portrait assignments until the Second World War. He was appreciated for his striking resemblances and the sharp portrayal of the character of the ones he portrayed. Which were often the notable figures of pre-war Jewish Amsterdam. A number of these special portraits from private collections can be viewed in the exhibition. Wertheim was deported during the war to camp Westerbork and then to Theresienstadt. After the war he stayed in Switzerland for a few years. Once back in the Netherlands, Wertheim also made portraits for war memorials, including the Monument of Jewish Honesty at the Weesperplein in Amsterdam, where not the fate of the Jews is central point of focus, but their gratitude for receiving help. Together with the artist Paul Citroen (1896-1983) he organized meetings, in which they both portrayed people from the audience at lightning speed, and to strikingly precision. Probably a large number of these images of unknown Dutch people are still in private possession.

The reason for the exhibition is the appearance of part 8 in the series Monographs of the Sculpture Institute: Joh. G. Wertheim (1898-1977), with contributions from Ester Wouthuysen, Jan Teeuwisse and Camée van Blommestein (€ 19.50). Earlier, in this series, monographs were published about, among others, the sculptors Jan Meefout, Gerrit Bolhuis and Leo de Vries.

Destined to become a banker, Johan G. Wertheim (1898 – 1977) made an unexpected decision to venture into the world of sculpture. He was awarded the Prix de Rome and embarked on a successful career sculpting portraits and monuments. Wertheim was also founder of Openbaar Kunstbezit, a Dutch foundation that championed the popularisation of art.