Kees Alderliesten may be one of the senior figures in contemporary Dutch painting, but he’s still experimenting still striving for new forms of expression. And it’s what makes him an artist who is not just inspired by 500 years of tradition, but genuinely part of it.
If you decide to buy one of Kees Alderliesten’s immaculately executed paintings don’t expect any thanks from the painter himself. Quite the opposite in fact. Alderliesten hates it when people do that. For this most committed of artists, every work is like a beloved child – and he doesn’t like to see them leave home. He says: “You can paint from your heart or you can paint for commercial reward. I’m lucky enough to be financially independent, so I’m just not too comfortable about selling my work. In fact, it breaks my heart.”
Indeed on one occasion, he even tried to buy back a landscape from a German collector. “I couldn’t believe how well I’d painted the field in that work, and I desperately wanted it back.”
Alderliestens’ attitude is pretty extraordinary. He admits that he keeps many of his works for himself, and that he prefers not to show anyone a work in progress for fear they will point something out that bothers him. “I have destroyed paintings because of something someone says,” he explains.
You can read this as a little eccentric, but it’s equally valid to see such passion as evidence of the artist’s total seriousness about his work. Kees paints for between 10 and 15 hours a day, and when he does take time off it’s to do virtually nothing but read (about art) and play the guitar. It’s a lifestyle that gives Kees the physical and emotional space to dedicate himself wholly to his craft – a craft that has collectors queuing up to buy the work.
In his native Netherlands, Kees prefers not to exhibit with commercial galleries (“they have their timetables and deadlines, and they don’t fit with mine”). Instead he alerts his large database of collectors to a show every 18 months that takes place at his home. If you think that sounds a little stressful for a man so reluctant to part with his work, you’d be absolutely right. “I think the openings are terrible. I’ve begged people not to buy things,” he says.
Unfortunately for the Dutch artist, the exhibitions generally sell out in 15 minutes.
I know. Isn’t it awful?
But it does make us very proud that our excellent relationship with the artist means we have exhibited Kees three times in the noughties. We’re delighted to have him back again for this new show with its customary mix of elegant still lives and wintry landscapes. They’re very Dutch, but Kees doesn’t appear daunted by the weight of four hundred years of art history bearing down on his shoulders. In fact, he’s enthusiastic about it, happily admitting a heavy debt to Rembrandt and Jan van Goyen, and a scholar’s obsession with learning about the techniques of these old masters.
The almost machine-tooled precision of Kees own interiors, and his passion in creating them, makes this artist a worthy part of the Dutch art story. The mystery helps too. Although Kees was born in 1962, it might as well have been 1662 such is his aversion to self-promotion. Try Googling Kees Alderliesten and you’ll find few entries except links to the Catto and the thoughts of someone called Kees Alderliesten who writes in to heavy metal fan sites.
It’s not him.
I’m just not too comfortable about selling my work. In fact, it breaks my heart.” Kees Alderliesten
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