A hundred years ago, a group of avant-garde young artists working in the north-eastern Dutch province of Groningen founded a collective known as De Ploeg (‘The Plough’).
The group – including Jan Wiegers, Jan Altink, H.N. Werkman and Johan Dijkstra – felt it was high time to let go of 19th-century ideals and ‘plough over’ the art landscape. A chance encounter between Wiegers and the German Expressionist Ernst Ludwig Kirchner in Davos (Switzerland) accelerated developments. At a time when the horrors of the First World War led many artists to abandon experimentation, the group began to paint vividly coloured landscapes and expressive portraits in unruly brushstrokes and so developed their own distinctive form of Northern Expressionism. They also used prints as a medium for their experiments. The Gemeentemuseum Den Haag has been collecting works by De Ploeg ever since the 1930s. In 1960, it held a major exhibition of the group’s graphic work. This year’s De Ploeg centenary is being celebrated with a wide range of events in Groningen, the exhibition at the Groninger Museum being the centrepiece. On the other side of the country, the Gemeentemuseum is responding with a small but select exhibition that once again highlights the graphic work of De Ploeg.