Willem Bastiaan Tholen painted portraits, forest, city and beach views in a loose painting style and a colourful, clear palette. But above all he loves water landscapes, polders, lakes, rivers, clouds, light and water. He records them in the vicinity of Kampen and Giethoorn, from the land, but also from the water. In Enkhuizen he has his Lemsteraak the 'Eudia' built, with which he makes countless trips in the Dutch lake and river landscape - often accompanied by friends. Tholen often docked his ship to draw or paint on the pier or in the meadow under a white parasol.
Born in Amsterdam in 1931, Tholen studies there for one year at the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten and then obtains his M.O. in two years. signing and rectilinear deeds at the Polytechnic School in Delft. At the age of 18 he is teaching art in Kampen, where his parents have since moved. Teaching is hard for him. He prefers to go out with friend Paul Gabriel to draw and paint in nature. The only training that Tholen would follow in the painting profession was the three months with Gabriel in Brussels. He was Tholen's most important counselor and his influence is visible in the early landscapes that Tholen made in the vicinity of Giethoorn and Kampen.
Tholen is seen as a versatile and talented artist, who was already very popular in his time. He builds on the work of the painters of the Hague School, but he gives it his own twist and was not necessarily looking for connection with like-minded people. His work is more colorful and diverse in subject matter than that of the Hague School painters and he works somewhat more modestly than the painters of the Amsterdam School, but his paintings and watercolors nevertheless find a connection with both movements. He was also a gifted etcher and draftsman. Tholen's life changes drastically when, as a young art student, he meets Willem Witsen at the Amsterdam State Academy. He was impressed by Tholen's talent and introduced him to his family and friends on the Ewijkshoeve family estate near Baarn, which was then a meeting center for painters, writers and musicians from the Tachtigers. Tholen also meets his future wife Coba Muller there, who lives at Ewijkshoeve and is friends with Cobi, Witsen's sister. Housemates are also the widower Bram Arntzenius with his six children. These children are grateful subjects for Tholen, who records them in countless drawings and paintings
Tholen first painted his beloved water landscapes in the vicinity of Giethoorn and Kampen, where he has been regularly since 1880. Not only from the land, but also from the water. In Enkhuizen he has his Eudia built with which he regularly sails over the Zuiderzee, the Waddenzee, Kagerplassen and the Dutch rivers, often accompanied by friends. The atmosphere on the water, around the ports and in the harbor towns, gave him inspiration for many new subjects. In 1886 Tholen married Coba Muller, 17 years his senior, and they settled in The Hague, where Cobi Witsen and Bram Arntzenius – who married a year earlier – also live with their children. In 1990, Tholen buys De Kanaalvilla on Haringkade in The Hague and has it renovated, so that both families can live together again like at Ewijkshoeve. In The Hague, Tholen has a rich social life and maintains many contacts with The Hague School painters such as the Maris brothers, Jozef Israëls, Mesdag, Bosboom, and Mauve. He becomes a member of Pulchri and of the Hollandsche Teekenmaatschappij. Tholen was a positive person, loved by colleagues and friends, but he was also appreciated in his work, it is sold worldwide and he wins art prizes. Art dealers are queuing up. Artworks from the Hague School are hardly for sale anymore and Tholen fills this gap with his typical Dutch subjects.
The tide turned for Tholen around his fortieth birthday. The critics still found his work civilized, but it lacked some of the sparkle of the earlier work he made at Ewijkshoeve. A sunny garden with greenhouses and a watering can or a dilapidated shed and fallen tree branch. Perhaps the demand from rival art dealers caused him to repeat too many themes. In 1916 Coba fell ill and died two years later in a sanatorium in Heelsum. Tholen continues to live in the Canal Villa and remarries in 1919 with Lady Lita de Ranitz. They remain together until Tholen dies on December 5, 1931. In Enkhuizen the flag is then flown at half-mast on the Dromedary.