Rik WOUTERS 1882 - 1916
From early age on Rik Wouters worked as an apprentice in the studio of his father, an ornamental sculptor. In his workshop he created wooden figures and decorations for furniture. At fifteen years old he entered the Akademie van Schone Kunsten in Mechelen to study sculpture.
In 1900 he decided to move to Brussels where he became a pupil of Charles Van der Stappen at the Academie des Beaux-Arts. There he met Hélène Duerinckx (Nel) who was to become his wife, favourite model and muse. The poverty of the young couple and the sickness of Nel forced them to leave the city centre and to go to Boitsfort, the green outskirts of Brussels.
In Boitsfort, Wouters focused on painting and studies of light. He chose to depict interiors and stillifes, painted with a knife (spatula) and showing an abundant use of colour laid down on cardboard. In 1911 Wouters changed his style, abandoning the use of the spatula and opting for the brush. In order to obtain a maximum of transparency the painter diluted his colours and used particularly absorbing canvases. It resulted in a reduced scale of warm tones and a diminished brilliancy of colours.
The young couple escaped from poverty only in 1912 when Wouters signed an exclusive contract with the Galerie Georges Giroux, Brussels. Not having to face financial trouble his creativity unfolded in the following years. Wouters visited Paris and Cologne where he studied paintings by Cézanne and Van Gogh and other impressionist works. This influence was reflected in his own work where colours gained the illusion of shimmering light. Long walks in the nearby woods inspired him in his choice of motives.
The First World War represented a major change in Wouters’ life. As a soldier he faced terror, death and destruction in Belgium and ended up in a detention camp in Amersfort, Netherlands. To escape from evil of war, he carried on producing drawings and water paintings in the detention camp. However, his health started to deteriorate quickly so that he was released from camp and moved with his wife to Amsterdam. In 1916 Rik Wouters died at the young age of 33.