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The Amsterdam Joffers


On view from October 1 at Museum Villa Mondriaan: The Amsterdam Joffers. Ansingh, Bauer-Stumpff, Van den Berg, Bodenheim, Van Regteren Altena, Ritsema, Surie and Westendorp-Osieck met each other between 1893 and 1908 at and around the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam. Some of them studied there at the same time as Mondrian. The art-market and history focused on innovation, like Mondrian’s work. He grew into a world-famous artist with his innovative geometric-abstract compositions. In contrast, the Joffers, with their figurative still lifes and portraits, were less appreciated by art critics at the time. Nevertheless, they were successful artists, distinguishing themselves in the male art world. Villa Mondrian is lifting the Amsterdam Joffers from oblivion this fall.

The name Amsterdamse Joffers was introduced in 1912 by art critic Albert Plasschaert. The individual female artists he used it to designate were too different from one another to be considered an artist group, but the name was used by the Joffers to exhibit together and hold their own in the male-dominated Dutch art world. Well into the twentieth century, the view was that a woman’s destiny lay in marriage and motherhood and thus she should not earn her own money. Nevertheless, the Joffers chose professional artistry with full conviction … and with success.

The Amsterdam Joffers came from the wealthy bourgeoisie and a number of them came from artistic families. Also, during the course of the nineteenth century, there was more acceptance toward artists. However, this is not to say that the obstacles for women to develop and present themselves as professional artists had all been removed. For example, some Joffers experienced firm opposition from the management of the Rijksakademie to women studying from live nude models, which was not allowed until 1895. In art criticism, the work of the Joffers was always measured by their sex and often described as posh, charming or elegant. Villa Mondrian now gives the Joffers a stage, which they had long been denied.

Although a modernist style of art emerged at the end of the nineteenth century, the Joffers still focused on making impressionist work. The Amsterdam Joffers made figurative images such as still lifes and portraits, which set them apart from the emerging modernist style. Because of this, however, their art was seen as “traditional. The Joffers sailed against the grain by choosing to create their own art, and exceptional for their time, they were artists who earned their own living by making art. Now, for the first time in a long time, the work of the Joffers will be visible to the public again. The opening of The Amsterdam Joffers at Museum Villa Mondriaan will be on Saturday, October 1.

The new exhibition creates attention to the Amsterdam female artists by exhibiting their work, but there was also an art history course available in October to delve deeper into the Amsterdam Joffers. Each Joffer also developed her own style, some of which was discussed during the meetings.

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The Amsterdam Joffers