Johan Dijkstra, born in Groningen, follows the Higher Trade School after the three-year HBS and afternoon lessons at the Minerva Academy from 1915. There, like Jan Altink, he was taught by the non-conformist painter F.H. Bach, the teacher who took his students outside to paint the landscape on the spot. A favorite place was the Blauwborgje, a farmyard on the Reitdiep, where Dijkstra would return a lot later. After completing the MO drawing, he goes to Amsterdam for another year in 1919 to further focus on painting at the Rijksacademie. During his studies at Minerva in 1918, Dijkstra is one of the founders of the Groninger Kunstkring De Ploeg and takes part in the first Shift Exhibition in 1919. The press is full of praise. In this time Dijkstra maintains himself with making illustrations and advertising work, just like Altink. In 1922 he married Marie van Veen, a fellow student from Hefswal.
In his early years Dijkstra often goes out with Altink to paint. Both are attracted to the typical Groningen landscape and the hard-working farm workers. In 1921 he starts experimenting with color and technique. Initially he was inspired by the radiant colors and the paint touch with short brushstrokes by Vincent van Gogh. In this style he paints cityscapes and landscapes. With this he stood outside the expressionism of the other team members, who had already become acquainted with the art and views of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner through Jan Wiegers. Often the Ploegmakkers go out together and like to settle down at Blauwborgje. Or they drive to Oostum, to paint the church there. Was this because this church was so much more beautiful than other Groningen churches? The reason is not so prosaic; many Team Members painted places within cycling distance because they did not have a car. Dijkstra said of the churches in Groningen: 'It was as if they called to be painted.' He thought that in the Groningen countryside you could always see a church somewhere in the distance, built in red brick, made of the local Groningen clay and thus inextricably linked to the landscape.
It was not until around 1926, somewhat later than with the other team members, that a strong expressionism entered the work of Dijkstra. In his paintings this is reflected in a completely different use of color and brush: instead of small strips of oil paint he paints landscapes, cityscapes and portraits in large areas of wax paint in bright, almost swearing colors. His graphics show the same dynamics and expressiveness, especially in etchings and woodcuts.
Towards the late 1920s, we see an understated, Impressionist artist, albeit retaining his bold, bright colors. At that time Dijkstra also accepts many assignments for glass art and mosaic. He makes windows for the auditorium of the University of Groningen, designs gobelins for the first room in The Hague and makes murals for the city hall of Groningen. However, he remains free to draw and paint, more true to nature than before.
After the outbreak of the Second World War it becomes impossible to carry out monumental assignments and Dijkstra picks up brush and canvas again. He must register with the Kultuurkamer, but does not participate in official exhibitions. He retreats to the countryside where he mainly captures the Groningen landscape and makes many portraits of his friends. He continues to take an interest in the Groningen landscape with its vast wheat fields, churches and mounds. In a time of upscaling and land consolidation, he chooses to capture the simple farm life and a landscape that will be lost. He no longer cares about modern artistic movements. As a monumental artist, he remains popular even after the war and makes windows for the Geertekerk in Utrecht, among others.
Dijkstra started writing texts for publications by and about De Ploeg as early as the 1920s. From the 1930s he also writes as a critic for various newspapers, including the Provincial Groninger Courant, the Nieuwsblad van het Noorden and the Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant. Unfortunately, his last years were not his happiest. After his wife died, his artistic production ceased. His creativity seemed to have left him and his health deteriorated rapidly. His fierce art criticism left him with few friends. Dijkstra died at the age of 81 in Groningen. His estate is managed by the Johan Dijkstra Foundation.