Dirk Smorenberg, born in 1883, is one of the few art deco painters in the Netherlands. His depiction of the Dutch water lily lakes was very different from that of painters who previously put this subject on the canvas. The Hague School painters did it with attention to the mood in fast brushstrokes and green-brown hues, while Smorenberg experimented in his works around 1910 with stylized shapes, shallow depth and fresh, bright colors in shades of green, blue, lilac and sometimes red. Initially, his work was not so popular with the public that it was painted too flat, insensitive and without emotion. However, appreciation soon arose when the art-deco style became fashionable. Smorenberg was an independent and original artist. He made special hand-carved wooden frames for many of his paintings. In addition to the famous water lilies, he also painted still lifes, a single cityscape and portraits.
Smorenberg was self-taught. After a period as a soldier (until 1906) he started at the age of twenty-two as an advertising artist in Amsterdam and formed himself by copying the work of old masters in the Rijksmuseum. At that time he also came into contact with the painter August Allebé, from whom he received advice. Then in 1907 he lived in Bergen for a year with his friend Dirk Filarski, with whom he took part in the exhibition of the artists' association St. Lucas in Amsterdam a year later. There was a lot of modern work on display by, among others, Jan Sluijters, Leo Gestel and Piet Mondriaan, and Smorenberg's work was therefore also attracted attention. In 1910 Smorenberg and Filarski traveled to New York where, together with Piet Mondrian, they exhibited at the Fredriks Brothers.
Smorenberg’s most successful period is between 1910 and 1926. At that time he drew everything that fascinated him and improved himself by constantly looking and practicing in his sketchbooks. He was a fast worker with un-Dutch color tendencies. In his paintings, color, often applied unmixed, was the most important way for him to express his emotions. He didn't care much about the representation of atmosphere. He was, however, critical of the right light and even went so far as to have the pear tree that stood in front of the windows of his studio facing north removed and the windows replaced. In 1918, art critic N.H. Wolf described his style as follows in the magazine De kunst: 'Dirk Smorenberg searches for large surfaces. He wants to portray things broadly, on the border of the decorative; but he does not neglect the realistic. It is as if he wants to unite realism with the stylized, and thereby achieve important effects. 'Smorenberg's early work, in naturalistic style, is reminiscent of that of the Hague School. Subsequently, it gave way to paintings in a more luminist style and finally he painted in an abstract, highly simplified and decorative Art Deco style, the style with which he became best known to the general public.
Smorenberg, called 'Smoor' by his friends, must have been an amiable person who could be laughed at and who was often described as a true bohemian. After he was able to build a house and studio on the Horndijk in Loosdrecht with financial support around 1920, he devoted himself fully to painting tranquil pools with reed borders and water lilies. In his rowing boat he often went out in summer and winter to paint the pools from various viewpoints, with varying clouds, sometimes with the reflection of the reeds in the water and the roots and fish below the surface of the water. In winter he did this from the waterfront, where his frozen rowboat was often part of the landscape. He also recorded the winter mountain landscapes in Switzerland when he stayed with his sister in Clarens near Montreux, together with Dirk Filarski.
After the 1930s, new developments passed Smorenberg and attracted less attention. After his death in 1960, he was forgotten for a while, but in the last two decades, with the rediscovery of his early work, new appreciation for the painter has come.