Willem Marisartist • painter • watercolourist • draughtsmanDen Haag 1844-1910
biography of Willem Maris
Portrait of Willem Maris
Willem Maris grew up in a family where the arts were greatly stimulated. He was the youngest of the three Maris brothers and received his first drawing instruction from his older brothers Jacob and Matthijs, with whom he shared a studio in The Hague. He also attended evening classes at the Hague Academy and received advice from animal painter Pieter Stortenbeker. In 1862 Willem started as an independent painter and made his debut at the Exhibition of Living Masters in Rotterdam. In the same year he sold his first painting and traveled to Oosterbeek, where he became friends with Anton Mauve. Mauve, who preferred to paint outside in all weather, often tried to persuade Willem to come along. But Willem felt most at ease in his studio, where he worked out the sketches he made outside. All his life he lived in and around The Hague and, while living in Rijswijk, had a duck pond planted in his garden. So he did not have to travel far to capture the ducks and their offspring.
The oeuvre of Willem Maris, also called the 'impressionist' of the Haagse School, is characterized not so much by a wide variety of subjects, but by large variations in composition, light treatment and technique. He preferred to paint and paint water-rich landscapes with ducks or cows on a canal or ditch. He often opted for a 'cut-out' from the landscape in which he wanted to capture the light. In his work, it is not the animals but the sunlight that actually play the leading role. 'I don't paint cows, but light effects,' he once said about his work. He used a special technique that the French Impressionists also applied, wet-in-wet painting; new paint was applied before the previous layer was dried. In his early work the animals were still a separate element, in his later work they became of secondary importance and were completely absorbed in the landscape.
Willem was the only one of the three brothers who had and kept success from the start of his career. He was not only known as a painter but also as a draftsman, etcher and especially as a watercolorist. Together with Anton Mauve and Hendrik Willem Mesdag, he founded the Hollandsche Teekenmaatschappij in 1876 and gave it to Breitner and his son, the later portrait painter Simon Maris.