‘True Grid; R60-29’ (1960)

Acrylic on relief paper mache with stapled sides on masonite board

Signed and titled on the reverse. Size: 59 x 62 cm

Estimate: 150,000 – 200,000 Euro


-Private Collection, Germany


-‘Internationale Malerei 1960-61’. Deutschordensschloss, Wolframs-Eschenbach, Germany, 15 July – 24 September 1961.
-‘Avantgarde 61‘, Städtisches Museum, Trier, Germany, 7 October – 5 November 1961.
-‘Nul‘, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, 9 – 26 March 1962.


-Antoon Melissen, "Jan Schoonhoven", (nai010 Publishers, 2015) , reproduced p.60
-Antoon Melissen and David Leiber, "Jan Schoonhoven", Zwirner Books, 2015 -This work will be included in the catalogue raisonné of the artist's reliefs currently in preparation.
We are thankful to M. Antoon Melissen for confirming this work's authenticity.


For almost 40 years, Dutch artist Jan J. Schoonhoven (1914-1994) worked on his highly distinctive monochrome white reliefs, made of papier-mâché, paper and cardboard; works that earned him international recognition from the late 1960s onwards. Monochrome white and the grid, those are the characteristics of many of Jan Schoonhoven’s reliefs. This particular piece from 1960 brings us closer to Schoonhoven’s first formal experiments.

It was in 1960 that Schoonhoven created his first monochrome serial reliefs composed of shallow, repeating surfaces, of which relief R60-29 is an important example. Schoonhoven was ‘done’ with the flat surfaces, that much becomes clear. ‘One day’, wrote Schoonhoven in 1958, ‘I will include the third dimension in my work. The transformation from painting to sculpture will then be complete.’ It never got as far as that, but in the course of 1960 his relief did gain significantly in depth.

In 1961, with Armando, Jan Henderikse and Henk Peeters, Schoonhoven formed the Dutch Nul Group which became affiliated with the international ZERO movement. ZERO artists moved away from the emotionally charged work of art, not through a different use of familiar academic materials, but by seeking other means and modes of expression. The ‘dynamic structure’ was an important notion for ZERO-artists, as was the monochrome and the grid as a compositional organizing principle.

It is as if in this work we are witnessing a search for new possibilities. Hesitantly, cautiously the relief rises from the picture plane. And in the somewhat unsteady lines we feel the artist’s handwriting. And yet, this is one of the first works with which Schoonhoven consciously attempted to shake off the legacy of informal art. No more drama in paint, no exaltation or emotionality. With the introduction of the grid as a ‘solution’; the absolute antithesis of composition in the classical sense.

This particular work, which had disappeared from view for years, has a rich exhibition history. This relief was part of the exhibition Internationale Malerei 1960-61 in the German town of Wolframs-Eschenbach (1961), the first presentation of Schoonhoven’s serial monochrome reliefs outside the Netherlands. Later that year, R60-29 was also shown in the exhibition Avantgarde 61 in the German town of Trier as the first exhibition with a “true ZERO spirit”. In the run-up to the exhibition, Schoonhoven was in close contact with kindred spirits such as Lucio Fontana, Yayoi Kusama and Dusseldorf Zero-artists Otto Piene, Heinz Mack and Günther Uecker. However, in the shelter of his hometown Delft, Schoonhoven came to a visual language that was wholly his own.

Jan Schoonhoven’s relief R60-29 was also part of the groundbreaking exhibition ‘Nul’ at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, March 1962. Nul was the first internationally oriented ZERO-exhibition within the walls of a prominent museum, organized by the artists themselves. In Amsterdam ZERO-artists demonstrated how they had succeeded in stretching the traditional concept of art: from the fascination with the elements fire and water, monochrome, movement and vibration, to the ‘annexation’ of consumer goods and the use of industrial materials.



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Auction 26 MAY 2021

Modern & contemporary art

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