by adindagroenhuis | 20 February 2018
The last of the Mohicans (written by Ron Dirven, 25 April 2009)
The 70 year old Henk Groenhuis belongs to an endangered race of sculptors and ceramicists who genuinely still understand the traditional discipline. In this sense one may consider him one of the last of the Mohicans. His knowledge in handling the materials and with the anatomy of man and animal from ancient cultures is exceptional. This knowledge is threatened with extinction in the contemporary art world. Just as how we may now look back on the extraordinary feats of the Greek and Roman sculptors or the architects of the Egyptian pyramids in wonder and amazement, the secrets of the trade Henk Groenhuis still possesses will be lost to us within the foreseeable future. Academies have not taught these subjects he has mastered in many decades. By the time renewed appreciation for this artform emerges, Groenhuis’ work will radiate a mysterious attractiveness for those willing to follow in his path.
Nowadays, who still possesses the techniques of shaping vases and bowls by hand, glazing, coin cutting, carving into natural stone, kneading sculptures from clay and wax, pouring and patinating bronze. Groenhuis learned these skills under the guidance of Jan Gladdines (1917-2004) at the Art Academy of Breda, where upon graduating he was honored with the Sint Joost penning (Saint Joost medal). He continued his studies at the Higher Institute of Fine Arts in Antwerp. There renowned sculptor Olivier Strebelle (1927) was his instructor. When he was ready to unfurl himself as an independent artist the art world had however decided to sail a different course. The era in which Dutch sculpture – particularly applied in architecture – had flourished abruptly grinded to a halt. The sixties were dominated by abstract art, installations, and performances. Pop art, Arte Povera, Fluxus, and ZERO come to mind as those new pioneering movements. Thus the field considerably narrowed for classically trained artists wishing to stay true to figurativism.
Yet Henk Groenhuis was still able to establish an oeuvre wrought with sensitivity. As his subject he chose animals and human figures from departed times, often inspired by Mayan culture. Throughout the seventies he realized several commissioned pieces throughout Breda: the little Goat in the Torenpassage, the Goose* in the Haagse Beemden, the little Pig in het Ginneken and the little Horse for the bishop’s palace in the Veemarktstraat, which was stolen in 1998. For the (Order of Lords) of Breda he created a medal of honor that is annually awarded to this day.
In 1972 he moved to Zundert where more of his handiwork can be found. The Smuggler can be found in the village of Achtmaal near the Belgian border, in the city hall a young Maya with flute, on the Wernhoutse weg Two Birds and on the Markt (square) his most famous statue: the Flower-Parade Girl. This bronze statue from 1979 refers to Zundert’s first ever flower parade, when the parade floats were still simply bicycles decorated with flowers. The native Zundert residents have sealed Groenhuis’ statue within their hearts and thus it holds the status of a monument. The Flower-Parade Girl looks out over the Vincent van Gogh House, for which the artist recently designed a medal of honor through the Friends of Van Gogh and Zundert and where he now since the occasion of his 70th birthday exhibits his independent works. From the ceramics, small sculptures and paintings shown here, not only are his versatility and craftmanship evident, but also his love for shaping the material, his subjects, and his art.
*The Goose was stolen in 2017.
(translated by Siwa Versnel)
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