Jan van Herwijnen, a self-taught individual, grew up in a working-class family. At the young age of fourteen, he left for England, where he took on various jobs to earn a living. He even worked as a kitchen assistant aboard seafaring vessels.
His talent developed through copying paintings at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. In 1912, he received a scholarship from jhr. Van Riemsdijk, the director of the Rijksmuseum, which allowed him to fully dedicate himself to painting and drawing. Van Herwijnen traveled extensively and spent some time in Paris and Southern France. In January 1920, he already had an exhibition at Heystee building on Herengracht in Amsterdam, showcasing his drawings among other works. In 1923, he exhibited in Collioure.
In 1919, he created a series of thirty large portrait drawings of psychiatric patients at Willem Arntsz Hoeve in Utrecht. He is also known for his portraits of the deceased in the mortuary of Wilhelminagasthuis in Amsterdam.
After working in Amsterdam, Arnhem until 1926, and Heemstede, he settled in Bergen in 1939, where his artistic style continued to evolve. Here, he painted landscapes, flowers, and still lifes, which belong to the Bergen School.
Jan van Herwijnen was a member of Arti et Amicitiae in Amsterdam and the KunstenaarsCentrumBergen (KCB) in Bergen.
In 2008, there was a major retrospective exhibition of his work titled “Jan van Herwijnen, self-preservation as a painter” at Museum Kranenburgh in Bergen. Art historian Caroline Roodenburg-Schadd, curator at the Museum for Modern Art Arnhem (now Museum Arnhem), wrote a monograph with the same title about Van Herwijnen. The exhibition was curated by Paul van Herwijnen, Jan van Herwijnen’s youngest son, and Ype Koopmans.
From September 19, 2021, to January 9, 2022, the exhibition “Drawing from Compassion” featuring portraits of the patients from Willem Arntsz Hoeve was on display at Museum More.
www.ftn-books.com has now the early 1973 publication on his KRANKZINNIGEN-TEKENINGEN available.