Jan Voerman sr. Is best known as a painter of 'the tranquil IJssel faces'. Born in Kampen as the son of a cow farmer, the pastures were his playground. After Jan left school he helped his father on the farm, but he was also fascinated by the landscape with the cows and horses around him and started drawing. Together with W.B. His school friend, he attended evening classes at the City Drawing School in Kampen. In 1876 both were accepted at the Rijksacademie in Amsterdam, where they were taught by August Allebé, among others. Voerman studied at the Academy with a break of one year during which he took lessons at the Antwerp Academy. When he left the Rijksacademie in 1883, he immediately went to work - without a contract - for art dealership Buffa. Sales of his works went well and over the years Buffa organized many exhibitions that earned him great fame especially after 1897.
In 1885, Voerman moved into the former studio of Jozef Israëls on the Rozengracht, became a member of Arti et Amicitiae and soon came into contact with artists such as Eduard Karsen, Georg Hendrik Breitner and Isaac Israels. During this time Voerman mainly painted landscapes, watercolors of flowers, Jewish house scenes and cityscapes. In this early work, the academic influence of his teacher Allebé is still clearly recognizable, in terms of subject, color scheme and paint treatment, but soon the smooth, impressionistic painting won out over the rigor of his earlier work.
Voerman spent the summer months in the vicinity of Kampen where he and W.B. Tholen had a pied-à-terre in the old center. Together with Willem Bastiaan Tholen and Paul Joseph Constantin Gabriel he roamed the meadows and polders and also got acquainted with the picturesque Hattem. Jan Verkade, his student from Amsterdam, already lived there, but chose Paris, where he joined the avant-garde group Les Nabis. When Voerman married Anna Verkade, Jan's sister, in 1889, the newly married couple moved into Jan's house on Kerkstraat. About living in Hattem - the Voerman family would live in the Hanseatic city all their lives - Voerman would once say: 'whoever lives in paradise never wants to leave it.'
In 1895-1896 Voerman had a house designed by architect Karel de Bazel at the Geldersedijk in Hattem, where he had a wide view over the river IJssel. Later, a workshop would be added where he himself established his studio on the first floor and his son Jan jr. - the later painter and illustrator of many Verkade albums - would get the ground floor. For example, Voerman had a pristine view of the ever-changing cloudy skies above the river - the interplay between sun, light and sky - and the cattle that walked around. This is where the rarefied ice landscapes with high cloudy skies were created in refined, pale colors, with which he would establish his name.
Around 1890 he became interested in the watercolor painting technique which he mainly applied in his flower still lifes. In delicate colors he captured roses, violets and nasturtiums in watercolor, which were immediately popular with a large audience. Around 1904 he would try to capture the transparency of the watercolor technique in oil paint and developed his own way - a transparent layer-over-layer technique - in his oil paintings.
In the meantime, Voerman also moved into 'the interior' and started painting 'bushes', forest edges and hedges near Hattem, near the Trijselenburg and on the Molecaten estate. In 1925, even further inland, Borculo was hit by a whirlwind that destroyed much of the village. Expressionist-tinted works with brightly colored skies were created here, as an illustration of the disaster.
Voerman died in his beloved Hattem in 1941. Unfortunately, the last six years of his life he was no longer able to paint because his eyes got worse.
Voerman has never joined an artistic movement and he cannot be placed under a school; not the Hague School and neither the Amsterdam School of Breitner, Isaac Israels or Willem Witsen, with whom he had intensive contact in his younger years. His works changed constantly because he was always looking for something new. Shortly after their marriage, Voerman's wife Anna described to Hattem his mother's passion for experimentation at that time: 'No one knows what self-control and how much determination was required to study in this way, two full years without a visible result. He has made studies, so dry, so drowsy, so without any so-called chic or beauty or painter's qualities (because he can do that) that they are seen; must think: 'Is that now a work of a Carter' ?! But the goal was to become thoroughly natural again, both in color and shape, to become a child again and, as it were, to start all over again so that later, without fear of any excesses, it would be possible to go back to fantasies and yet to keep that in-nature without any visible effort. 'Art dealership Buffa regularly struggled with the unpredictability of Voerman and sometimes refused parties. But enthusiasts apparently had less trouble with this, they looked for their own taste or bought directly from the studio in Hattem.