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The Dutch Courier
is a monthly
publication,
published on behalf
of the Associated
Netherlands
Societies in
Victoria Inc.


De digitale krant van wakker Nederland

JAN VAN FUCHT,
a man of many talents.
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Ann Schipperheyn

In the 19th century the Zuiderzee was much larger than the present IJsselmeer . Where once the waves lapped, today there are polders. Crossing the Zuiderzee then, was quite an undertaking. Jan van Fucht’s grand parents were Friesian and decided to ‘migrate’ to the province of North Holland. Little did they know that their grandson would cross, not just seas, but oceans time and time again.
Several people suggested that artist Jan van Fucht should be included in the series of articles about Dutch artists. Prior to writing this article I received a CD which contained a comprehensive set of images of Jan van Fucht’s paintings. These gave us some idea of the standard, variety of subject matter, mediums of Jan’s work. I visited him at his home soon afterwards, where I could view his work first hand.
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Jan was born in 1926, in Beverwijk, one of five children. It was an artistic family, one of Jan’s brothers is a highly respected, talented, sculptor in The Netherlands. At a very early age Jan knew what he wanted to do when he grew up: to become an artist. Because of economic necessity in the family Jan worked as an apprentice house painter at the age of 14 on building projects.The  new walls were hard-plaster.  At the end of one working day Jan was left on his own and could not resist the temptation. Faced with such a lovely large blank surface, he drew large images all over the wall. His boss was not amused and kept a close watch on him after that, this did not prevent Jan from making sketches whenever the opportunity arose. It was recognised that Jan was exceptionally talented, so arrangements were made for him to attend drawing classes in Haarlem. Jan only went part time, he continued to work half days, he nevertheless received his Diploma in one year! One of his drawings, still in Jan’s possession, shows how much talent and skill he had at the age of 16. After finishing that course Jan was accepted into the Institute of Fine Arts in Amsterdam. It was towards the end of W.W. II when food was very scarce. One day Jan was able to exchange one of his watercolours for a sack of potatoes. The farmer must have had an eye for talent and one wonders what may has become of that painting.

Not long after the war, Jan was called up for National Service. It soon became apparent that Jan was really not soldier material. One day all the recruits were sent on a march across the fields. As usual, Jan’s mind was elsewhere and when he caught sight of a perfect dew-drop, he stopped in his track, thereby throwing the line of marching soldiers in disarray.



It was decided to send the unit Jan was part off to the then Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia. Jan, in the meantime had been transferred to a theatre group which had been formed and was to be sent to Indonesia for the purpose of entertaining the troops. The theatre group included some excellent actors and a well known conjurer, Fred Kaps, Jan was asked to design , build and fit out a stage-van.  Originally Jan and the van were to travel by cargo ship, but as he was a soldier the plans were changed and they went on the Johan van Oldenbarneveldt. Jan was not impressed with the crowded dormitories but his talents were soon recognised by the ship’s captain for whom Jan designed and created special Awards certificates, for which he required space. Jan received permission to use the officers’ dining room as his studio, enjoyed the meals served there and was given nicer accommodation, making the voyage very pleasant. Once in Indonesia the van with its crew travelled around and put on shows while Jan painted murals on the walls of a number of canteens.

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