HL Arts: Henk Pander, Dutch Painter, Classical Evolution

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"To reflect on my life and the world around me is thematically very compelling and at the same time gives me incredibly powerful subject matter," says Dutch artist Henk Pander in regards to his impressive oeuvre.

Pander's interest in capturing history in the making has made him a unique contemporary artist. Where others aim to push the boundaries of art, Pander's skill achieves this naturally. Inspired by classical masters, Pander borrows subjects from the past while creating his own classical twist. His works are a documentation of events in our modern age, the marks both men and nature have left on this planet.  His evocative works are a reminder of the impermanence and fragility of life.

Pander's journey as an artist began in Haarlem, the Netherlands, where he was born in 1937. The son of renowned Dutch artist Jacob Pander, Pander was exposed to art at a very young age. Starting at nine, Pander would accompany his father on painting expeditions to the Haarlem dunes, where he would paint side by side with his dad out in the landscape.

As he puts it, "Art is what I do." Creating was never seen as a calling or a small hobby, but viewed at large, placed in the category of profession and fervored responsibility. After enrolling in the Rijksacademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amesterdam in 1956, Pander was awarded the Prix de Rome Silver Medal in 61'. In 1965, Pander immigrated with his family to Portland, Oregon, where he continues to live and work.

Stylistically, Pander's art is reminiscent of the 17th century Dutch masters like Rembrandt and Vermeer, but there is also an influence of modern movements like Expressionism and Surrealism in his work. Pander considers himself essentially a European painter. "My strongest influences throughout my career," Pander says, "are echoes of these early works I grew up with."

Looking at his overall body of work, certain themes can be identified. Be it still life, portraiture, or landscape, Pander has a keen interest in the narrative of his subjects, in documenting, be it an historical or current-event, or something completely fantastical that exists only in his imagination. Perhaps Pander's most well-known series has to do with the Second World War, which Pander witnessed first-hand.

"I remember a lot about the war," Pander says, "and since warfare seems to be happening all the time in our lives it is a powerful metaphor for what happens to people in conflict." People have a powerful response to Pander's war pieces, and this isn't surprising because he pours into them his own emotional experience of war.

Although Pander has lived in the United States for 50 years, he is still interested in finding connections to his homeland in the Netherlands and in particular his childhood during the Second World War. Currently, he is researching for a new series on Portland's shipbuilding industry during the war, where his interest heavily lies on the connection between the two places that he's called home.

One of the many things that makes it easy to consider Henk Pander a master artist is his never ending drive to produce.  The detail, and often monumental scale of his work are only a few of the aspects that make each painting complex and effective. Large in size, many of his paintings can be daunting at first glance, but it's the jolting subject matter and Pander's keen observation that make his work important and emotive.

"There comes a time," Pander says, "where I wouldn't know what to do to make it more powerful, evocative, or present. So I just make a judgment and say I should leave it be. In a sense, it's like writing a novel. The work is like a protagonist with clear direction."

Henk Pander has inclusions in many great museums and private collections, as well as public displays and commissions. His reputation as one of America's greatest living artists is assured, but for Pander it's not about the praise, it's about the art.

To learn more about Henk Pander and view his incredible works of art, you can visit his websitehttp://henkpander.format.com/#1.

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