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EN / nl

Leck, Bart van der

b. 1876, Utrecht, NL; d. 1958, Blaricum, NL

Mijnwerkers, 1914 Watercolour on paper, 19.4 x 29.4 cm Collection: Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo

Mijnlandschap bij Zaccar, Noord-Afrika Watercolour, 23.3 x 20.1 cm Collection: Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo 

In early 1914, the artist Bart van der Leck was commissioned to create a stained glass window for the offices of Müller & Co., a mining and shipping company with headquarters in the Netherlands. From April to June, van der Leck made sketches while surveying the company’s activities. Müller & Co. had large mines in the most important areas of iron ore deposit around Bilbao in Spain and Zaccar in Algeria, and exported this crucial mineral down the Rhine to Germany’s industrial and coal mining heartland in the Ruhr. Showing two perspectives on work underground, Mijnwerkers visually expresses the geographical dispersal of the company’s interests, as well as the manner in which those interests were underpinned by human labour. The figures on the left have an Egyptian-like combination of profile and full frontal views similar to the monumental depiction of working people Van der Leck had been pursuing prior to the commission, while the repeating pattern of pit props on the right anticipate the form of geometric abstraction he would develop from 1916 onwards. In addition to sketching workers, van der Leck also sketched the landscapes around the mines. One such image, Mijnlandscap bij Zaccar, Noord-Africa, later became the basis for the centre panel of the ambitious triptych Composition 1916, no.4. The sharp profile of the hills against blank sky creates a strong sense of vertical hierarchies but the main result is that the sketch reads as much like a cross section as a perspective. These are all effects that would recur in the tension between flatness and pictorial space in the later triptych. MW