Johan van Hell

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Olympic medal record
Art competitions
Bronze 1924 Paris Painting

Johannes "Johan" Gerardus Diederik van Hell (28 February 1889 – 31 December 1952) was a Dutch visual artist and musician. He was a dedicated socialist and a man with a highly developed social conscience. Many of his later works depict the struggles and plight of ‘the man in the street’. In 1925 he decides to produce lithographs to make art available at a reasonable price to the working class. He also gives free private art and music lessons to gifted students who cannot afford the tuition.

His art oeuvre is varied, ranging from oil paintings, water colours, wood cuts and lithographs to political posters, ex-libris and magazine and book covers and illustrations. He also receives regular commissions from the City of Amsterdam for monumental art. His music is at least as important to him as his art. His instrument is the clarinet but he also plays the oboe. He regularly performs with Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw Orchestra but refuses a permanent position. In his last years his music takes precedence over his art.


  • 1889

Johannes Gerardus Diederik (Johan) van Hell is born on February 28, 1889, in Amsterdam as the third child of Jacobus Johannes van Hell and Aartje Reijnders.

  • Approx. 1903

First lessons in painting by G.W.Knap. Follows music lessons, probably at Amsterdam’s Volksmuziekschool (People’s Music Academy ).

  • 1903 – 1906

Quellinus School, decorative painting (diploma).

  • 1906 – 1909

State College for Art Teachers (certificate). Certificate ‘Drawing and Perspective’, August 26, 1909.

  • 1909 – 1913

State academy for the Visual Arts, drawing course, painting course and model course. Secondary Education Certificate ‘Hand and Geometrical Drawing’, July 9, 1912. Lessons in lithography at the van Leer company. Lessons in wood cutting by a graphic artist, J.G. Veldheer. Clarinet lessons by Piet Swager.

  • 1909

Relationship with Paulina (‘Pau’) Maria Louise Wijnman (1889-1930).

  • 1911 – 1916

Employed as art teacher at the Hendrick de Keyser, the J.P.Coen and the Frans Hals Schools, all in Amsterdam.

  • 1915

Marriage to Pauline Wijnman, visual artist and costume designer, November 12, 1915.

  • 1915 – 1927

Appointed permanent substitute clarinettist with the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam.

  • 1917 – 1918

Mobilized for 20 months, serving in the Dutch army, billeted in the province of Brabant.

  • 1918

Formation of the Arbeiders Jeugd Centrale (AJC) (Workers’ Youth League), the youth movement of the SDAP Socialist Party and the NVV Trade Union. Both Pau van Hell-Wijnman and Johan van Hell will get actively involved in this movement.

  • 1919 – 1920

Art teacher at the High School for Girls, Amsterdam.

  • 1920 – 1923

Art teacher at the Frans Hals School, Amsterdam..

  • 1921

First Van Hell exhibition (Rotterdamse Kunstkring) (Rotterdam Art Circle).

  • 1922

Exhibition in the Concertgebouw, a.o. with the painting Blaassextet (Wind Sextet) which painting is still owned and exhibited by the Concertgebouw.

  • 1923-1939

Regularly travels to France, Austria and Switzerland, as witnessed by a number of his paintings and drawings.

  • 1924

Olympic bronze medallion for Schaatsenrijders (The Skaters) at the Concours de peinture, Paris. Visit to Paris with the Concertgebouw Orchestra.

  • 1924 – 1925

Art teacher at the High School for Girls, Amsterdam

  • Approx. 1925

Teacher at the Music Lyceum and the Volksmuziekschool (People’s School for Music), Amsterdam. Starting in the early thirties he teaches clarinet at home.

  • 1926 – 1941

Member of Art Association De Brug, of which he is co-founder in 1926 and chairman in 1934.

  • 1926

Co-founder of Hollandse Kamermuziek Vereniging (HKV) (Netherlands Chamber Music Association). Participates regularly in their concerts.

  • 1927

Takes his leave from the Concertgebouw Orchestra. Co-founder Socialistische Kunstenaarskring (SKK) (Socialist Artist Circle) which will operate until 1934.

  • 1927 – 1945

Art teacher at the Adama van Scheltema and Ruysdael Schools, Amsterdam. Also, in 1927-1928, at the De Bazel School and in 1929 at the Friso School, both in Amsterdam.

  • 1930

International exhibition Socialistische Kunst Heden (Socialist Art Today) in the Municipal Museum, Amsterdam, organised by the SKK. Formation of the Nederlandse Vereniging voor Hedendaagse Muziek (NVHM) (Netherlands Association for Contemporary Music). Participates in some of its concerts. Pau van Hell-Wijnman dies on October 2, 1930.

  • 1932

Leaves the SDAP and joins the Onafhankelijke Socialistische Partij (OSP) (Independent Socialist Party) Gramophone record of Johan van Hell (clarinet) and Daniel Ruyneman (piano), NVHM.

  • 1933

Marriage to Caroline Adolphine Lankhout (1895-1947) on June 14.

  • 1934 – 1952

Permanent position as Art Teacher at the Friso School. Additionally he teaches at the De Lairesse School (1936-1937) (temporary assignment), at the Vincent van Gogh School (1937-1942 and 1945-1952), the Van Heutsz. (1941-1945) and Frankendael Schools, and finally at the Amstel School (1945-1952, all in Amsterdam.

  • 1935 – 1939

Participates in exhibitions organized by the Populistenkring (Populist Circle), in existence from 1935 until 1939.

  • 1940

Vice-Chairman of the Vereniging tot Bevordering der Grafische Kunst (VBGK) (Association for the Promotion of Graphic Art). In May Holland is invaded and occupied by German forces. Van Hell refuses to join the Nazi-imposed Culture Chamber.

  • 1947

Caroline Lankhout dies on July 28.

  • 1952

Art Teacher at the Barlaeus Gymnasium High school

  • 1952

Johan van Hell dies on December 31, 1952 of an acute kidney inflammation in Amsterdam’s Weesperplein Hospital.

  • 1976

'Rediscovered’ by Thom Mercuur, then Director of Museum ‘t Coopmanshus (today Museum Martena) in Franeker (Province of Friesland) . First post-Second World War exhibition totally dedicated to Van Hell is first featured in Franeker , then in various museums in The Netherlands amongst which the renowned Stedelijk Museum of Amsterdam.

  • 2005-2006

Exhibition “Van de Straat” featuring a major collection of Van Hell’s art. Publication of an illustrated catalogue of all his known oeuvre.