Jan de Clerck, “De vermoeide Winden (The Tired Winds)”, 1937, Oil on Canvas, Private Collection
Born in Ostend, Belgium, Jan de Clerck studied briefly with the painter Camille Payen in Brussels, but was, for the most part, self-taught. He was much influenced by the exhibitions organized by the group La Libre Esthétique, and his first paintings date from the late 1890s. Quickly gaining in confidence and ability, De Clerck first exhibited his paintings in 1905.
Jan de Clerck developed an original technique of a sort of elongated pointillism of striped brushstrokes, producing landscapes and seascapes tinged with a Symbolist aesthetic. He often worked in mixed media, dragging the paint with short vertical strokes in order to build up the surface of the picture. This individual technique De Clerck made virtually his own: much of his best work up to 1920 is painted in this way.
A period of exile from Belgium during World War I, found De Clerke painting landscapes and camouflage, taking part in local exhibitions, and befriending such artists as Frank Brangwyn. After the war, Jan de Clerck returned to Ostend where his reputation continued to grow. He experimented with new techniques, often mixing pastel and watercolour, which he called ‘aquapastel’, to create the luminous effects he sought.
Further exhibitions of De Clerck’s work in Ostend, Liège and Ghent, as well as the publication of a book of reproductions of his work in 1928, served to advance his reputation. After 1933, however, there were no major exhibitions of De Clerck’s work for almost twenty years. His output began to decline, and he began to focus mainly on seascapes, always his favourite subject.