★panels by Werkman in Hindelooper cabinet★

Hendrik Nicolaas Werkman and August Henkels: the Hindelooper cabinet with twelve scenes from the Old Testament on a plywood panel

★panels by Werkman in Hindelooper cabinet ★ Hendrik Werkman receives twelve plywood panels from Reverend August Henkels in 1943 

Restoration ★Werkman panels in Hindelooper cabinet★

The first viewing of the  – panels by Werkman in Hindelooper cabinet – by Marjan de Visser and Brigitte Taal in December 2017, in December 2017, was followed by the request from the Groninger Museum to take a closer look at the panels. This resulted in a complete condition report per panel and conservation and restoration treatment. For this, colleague Noa Kollaard and Marjan de Visser red the Letters around De Blauwe Schuit 1940-1945 part 2. The correspondence offers valuable information about the materials and techniques of the panels and the cabinet. It became the basis for the restoration of the religious paintings on panel

panels by Werkman in Hindelooper cabinet

★paneeltjes van Werkman in Hindelooper-kast★

De blauwe Schuit: in the middle left Henkel and right Werkman

Werkman’s twelve panels in Henkel ‘s Hindelooper cabinetDe twaalf paneeltjes van Werkman in de Hindelooper-kast van Henkels

Henkel sends 12 plywood panels by post to Werkman. It must be twelve scenes from the Old Testament. Henkel chooses the choice of stories himself, and he has a description of which phase in the story he would like to see. Sometimes he is very specific there, as in ‘The Return of the Spies’. “For according to the Bible it was not only grapes but also pomegranates and figs. This is important for the colour variation ”. And indeed, in addition to the grapes, we also see the red pomegranates and the pink figs. But and in another story about Daniel in the Lion’s Den, he doesn’t know exactly what it should look like. There he relies on Werkman’s interpretation. But he also thinks if a subject does not please Werkman that he himself has the opportunity to choose another subject.

jefta's dochter_de kast van werkman

jefta’s daughter from the cabinet by Werkman

At one point Werkman asks Henkel by letter (August 1943) for more information about a few panels. He wants to know how he can best translate this into a painting. Werkman is well on his way and very enthusiastic and thinks he will have the first works ready by the end of September 1943. He says that he paints “off the cuff”, without first drawing or sketching. Nevertheless, he also reports that he sets up each of the works with a well-considered design and goes over the biblical text himself. It is interesting to read that Werkman feels how different it is to paint instead of making prints.

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The performances on Werkman’s ★panels in Hindelooper cabinet★

Quote from Henkels (pg 143) “When you have finished a few, do you send them already? We are too curious to wait for all 12 of you to finish. Then I will also make the missing descriptions for you. They can certainly become very colorful scenes and everything can be interpreted very ‘childish’. Do not force yourself and paint as your mind tells you to paint. We have great confidence in the end result of your efforts ”. So although Henkels Werkman provides the desired performances, he is completely free in the performance.

The color of the Hindelooper cabinet ★panels by Werkman★

de kleuren op de Hindelooper kast

the colours on the Hindelooper kast

They also discuss the color of the cabinet together, it becomes blue with a hint of green. The local painter paints the cabinet. Werkman does make a comment that the cabinet should not be painted too dark.


The twelve plywood ★panels by Werkman in Hindelooper cabinet ★

Werkman also thinks about the panels, about the effect of the wood. He even suggests in a letter whether he should first paint on linen and then stick it on the panels. However, he did not do this. Henkels also has doubts about the quality of the plywood he chooses for the 12 panels. And suggests that the furniture maker, Mr. H. Amsterdam, will take back the wood and supply oak panels in its place. Unfortunately, this never happened. Werkman, in turn, finds the wood rather rough and decides to sand and fill the putties before painting. He also thinks they are rather thin and hopes that the wood will not work. Werkman writes about this to Henkel in August 1943 “The panels I have here are nice to paint if they are well prepared, but they are so insignificant for an expensive cupboard that will have to defy the ages ”. Yet we see that Werkmaan has simply painted on the plywood panels. And they will be ready at the end of September.

Hendrik de Vries ★panels by Werkman in Hindelooper cabinet ★

Hendrik de Vries who looked at them recognizes all subjects, except the story of Jefta. Werkman has decided for the unit of execution to paint all the panels one after the other.

Varnish on twelve  ★panels of Werkman in Hindelooper cabinet★

There is also correspondence about varnishing. Henkels wants this to be done immediately before transport. Werkman argues that it should happen later when everything is “dry”.

The Twelve ★panels of Werkman in Hindelooper cabinet★ are ready

When Henkel writes to Werkman on 10 September 1943 that he has received the panels, he calls them beautiful, and finds them entirely in Werkman style “Frisch-primitive”. Henkel’s wife Julia has a preference for the Ark (also my preference). The Henkel couple admires the case “A true sparkling jewel”.

Blowing in ★Werkman panels in Hindelooper cupboard★

de zondeval_de kast van werkman

detail of the fall from the workman’s closet

Oh, and in October there will be problems with the closet. Henkels discovers that on several panels there are damages: “There are blisters, which are already starting to cause cracks. so on Adam and Eve; the snake is in half. Zoo on The Golden Calf. And presumably more will follow, eventually all of them. So the plywood won’t hold. The question is: what now: ”Werkman wonders whether it is not too humid at Henkel,“ Then there is no saving ”. Werkman suggests that overpainting on thick panels may cause another problem: warping. New panels are still being suggested by him. After that, there is no more communication about the panels.

Werkman’s Hindelooper cabinet in the Groninger Museum

paneeltjes in de hindelooper kast van werkman

1) ) the original thinned plywood, 2) the glue 3) added new plywood.

The cabinet was purchased in 2017 by the Groninger Museum van de Erven Henkel. And during that first condition check performed by me together with wood and furniture restorer Brigitte Taal, we make some discoveries. One of them concerns the panels and the other the blue paint on the cabinet. Because the plywood panels have been thinned down to the last layer and transferred to a multiple. Retouches have also been thought of and a layer of varnish has been applied. At the cabinet in small corners, we discover several layers of blue paint. From bright blue to dark green-blue.

Condition reports & conservation

★Werkman panels in Hindelooper cabinet★

Last year (2019) the panels were transported to our workshop for detailed condition description. On our advice, only a very cautious treatment was given to the panels. Bonding of the bladders and some loss of paint, where the gaps have been filled and colored. The panels are fully described and the conditions and damage are documented. The panels will soon travel to Groningen again and be placed in the cabinet. In the post-blog Restoration ★ cabinet by Werkman ★ this is discussed in more detail.

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★ I like to share my knowledge of paintings and love for conservation with colleagues and clients ★

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