DICK DE GROOT SHOWS NEW PAINTINGS AT 95. Join us for an opening reception for the artist on Saturday, July 30 from 5-7PM. Light refreshments will be served.
Dick De Groot at SFA Gallery
Dutch/American painter and sculptor Theodore “Dick” De Groot will display fourteen new paintings in his second one-person show at SFA Gallery. The exhibit runs from July 30 through September 17, with an opening reception on Saturday, July 30 from 5-7PM. This exhibit is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.
Despite having invented the highly popular form of decorative art known as Lath Art, Dick’s own paintings remain barely known beyond Hunterdon County.
Example of Lath Art produced by Austin Productions
A handful of exhibits, all in New Jersey, are the sum of his exposure over the past twenty-five years. Yet during that time period his work has undergone an impressive progression in style and execution, culminating in these most recent works. They are at first glance vivid, blunt, seemingly naïve or primitive. But a longer look reveals nuance, exquisite composition, balance and depth—from the hand of a confident and decisive master, directing his viewer’s gaze across his canvases at will. While many of the elements that populate Dick’s paintings have the feel of real places, people and things, they are actually “taken apart and put back together” as Dick says, meaning they are “invented things and only exist for the artist to play with.”
“Barns and Birds” 2015, Acrylic on Panel
The paintings also reveal a very long and gradual distillation process wherein De Groot has eliminated every extraneous element, leaving only the bare essentials necessary to illustrate his ideas. Since he has been dealing with the same themes from the very beginning (the urban scene, humor, loneliness) and applying rigorous self-criticism (painting over pictures he is dissatisfied with) he is now producing work remarkable for its purity, intensity and power.
“Still-Life with Shells” 2016, Acrylic on Canvas
De Groot has been an artist all his life. Born in 1920, in Scheveningen, a beach suburb of The Hague in the Netherlands, he trained at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts during the war years and then took post-graduate classes in sculpture. Several of his teachers were Bauhaus-trained or influenced and their philosophy clearly shows in his work. Of this post-war period Dick recently recalled: “After the war I worked for newspapers, did political cartoons, and a daily cartoon for the children. The pressure of deadlines made me quit so I could spend more time with my girlfriend. I enjoyed her beauty and sharp wit. She became my redhead wife who gave me five talented children.” Cold War fears of Russian aggression in Europe prompted De Groot to emigrate first to Canada and then the United States, along with his wife, Hans, and their five children. He immediately found work painting gigantic faces and glasses of beer for the advertising industry. A year of this was enough and he began painting murals and sculpting portraits, always on commission. One such project is the huge gilded sculptural relief on the façade of the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Maryland.
Bas-Relief Sculpture by Dick De Groot, Baltimore, Maryland
In the late 60’s Dick made the first prototypes of “Lath Art” pictures, and with the help of his son, Will, set up a factory near Frenchtown, NJ to produce them. The company he founded, Austin Productions, was a success, and attending to it took up much of Dick’s energy during these years. Still, his time to paint was now wholly his own, and he made good use of it. Then, when De Groot retired from business, he returned to painting full-time. The death of his beloved wife eight years ago came as a severe blow and he stopped painting for a time, but eventually went back to it.
“Mandolin and Apple” 2016, Acrylic on Canvas
The fourteen new paintings in this exhibit are the fruit of a lifetime of disciplined work combined with vivid imagination and take-no-prisoners attitude that any young artist would surely envy. There is a great deal young painters could learn from Dick, especially about being true to your vision and process, no matter what, and working for the sheer joy of it, and not for some other purpose.
“Capri” 2015, acrylic on panel
Dick describes his process: “I refuse to paint ‘sure-sellers’ such as the cute, the corny, the romantic, the sentimental, the narrative. My favorite subject is the contemporary American urban scene, which I find exciting and uniquely suited to my taste. I like to use clues that give an illusion of space, or only a suggestion of it around the corner or beyond the hill. The opposites of mass and space, of volumes and voids intrigue me. They are the basis of my compositions. The urban landscape is rich in geometric planes that can be arranged in expressive combinations of color and light-dark values. I want to see each element in my work in harmony with the total. That includes clouds, traffic signs, telephone poles etc. I will change the subject to suit my purpose. Things are moved, added or left out in a process of translating reality into a painted and new reality, that may be subjectively interpreted.”
Dick De Groot at work
Gallery hours are Wednesday-Sunday 11-5, and by appointment.
Short Video of Dick De Groot discussing his work:
Dick De Groot paintings: