Stillness and change
In his attentive drawings, sketches and paintings, the deep connection between Clemens Merkelbach and his immediate surroundings can be felt. He depicts the buildings, neo-Gothic churches and landscapes in and around Breda in a versatile way. Sometimes calm and controlled, then almost passionate and full of feeling.
Merkelbach is an intuitive artist who sees the beauty in buildings, the value of which was recognised much later. If the neo-Gothic looks definitively out of fashion, he draws the Barbarakathedraal and the Maria Hemelvaartkerk in Breda. In this way he ensures that these churches continue to exist on paper after their demolition. At the same time, he shows how the demolition process definitively changes the urban environment.
‘Appreciation for art and churches of the past is growing. However, this won’t bring back the demolished buildings with their beautiful interiors. They have been saved on paper by Merckelbach.’ - Jacques Hendriks, BN/DeStem daily paper
Many fellow artists seek abstraction in the 1950s, but Merkelbach's tranquil oeuvre is not part of the avant-garde. He belongs to a group of post-war artists who continue to work in the figurative tradition. In his work, Impressionism and Expressionism remain as topical as ever. The appreciation for post-war figurative artists, including Sierk Schröder, Merkelbach’s teacher at the Rijksacademie, is increasing.
“After the war everything had to change. What you made was entirely up to you, regardless of whether it was beautiful or not. I have no affinity with abstraction. I remain true to myself.” - Clemens Merkelbach
Artistic development in Breda
The exhibition takes you into the personal memories of Clemens Merkelbach. He grows up on Breda's Haven. The family lives in an 18th-century building opposite Pierre Cuypers' Barbarakathedraal. At the back it overlooks the Great Tower of the Church of Our Lady. The location of the house strongly determines the life and work of the artist.
In his younger years Merkelbach visits the Barbarakathedraal every day. He is fascinated by the beauty of neo-Gothic buildings. The parental home, the idyllic back garden and the view of the Grote Kerk also make a lasting impression on him. From 1954 to 1958, Merkelbach studies at the St. Joost Academy of fine arts. When he graduates, he receives the St. Joost Medal from the city of Breda for the series of expressive drawings of the Barbarakathedraal and the interiors of his parental home. The exhibition also highlights his teachers Jan Sleper and Feitze de Bruijn. In the Brabant landscapes we recognise the influence of Vincent van Gogh. In Breda, Merkelbach lays the foundation for an artistry that, after moving to Amsterdam in 1958, is fully developed.
After studying at the St. Joost Academy of fine Arts in Breda, Merkelbach is studying at the Rijksacademie in Amsterdam. In 1965, he makes drawings of the construction of the IJtunnel for the Amsterdam Municipal Archives. He develops into a celebrated portrait painter. His work has been exhibited in, among others, the Van Gogh Museum, Singer Museum Laren, the Amstelkerk, Museum Ons ’Lieve Heer op Solder and Stedelijk Museum Breda. His work can be found in museum and private collections and archives. In 2019, Clemens Merkelbach donates his Breda oeuvre to the Stedelijk Museum Breda.
A publication marks the occasion of the exhibition Clemens Merkelbach van Enkhuizen - Stillness and change. The publication in English and Dutch is available from the museum.
CollectieLab is an open platform for discovering and developing the Breda Collection. You can see temporary presentations of mostly unknown paintings, objects and documents from archives and depots.