Jan Schoonhoven



In Tate Modern

Jan Schoonhoven 1914–1994
Acrylic paint on cardboard and paper on plywood base
Object: 1238 × 838 × 38 mm
Purchased 1972

Display caption

Schoonhoven experimented with several different styles of art. In 1960, he began making white reliefs using geometric shapes. This work is built out of cardboard on a wooden base with paper glued over it. 'R69-26' is an identification number, rather than a title. R indicates that it is a relief, 69 refers to the year it was made. 26 signifies that it was his twenty-sixth relief made in 1969. Schoonhoven had a job in the Dutch civil service, making art at the evening and weekend.

Gallery label, August 2020

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Catalogue entry

Jan Schoonhoven born 1914

T01499 R69-26 1969

Inscribed on back 'J.J. Schoonhoven | 1969 | 124 x 84cm. | "R69-26"'
Cardboard and paper painted with white emulsion on a plywood base, 48 3/4 x 33 x 1 1/2 (124 x 84 x 4)
Purchased from the artist through the Lucy Milton Gallery (Grant-in-Aid) 1972
Exh: Schoonhoven, Galerie m, Bochum, May-June 1969 (no catalogue); Schoonhoven, Kosa, Ben Hoezen, Internationale Galerij Orez, The Hague, July 1969 (no catalogue); Schoonhoven, Lucy Milton Gallery, London, October-November 1971 (6)
Repr: Studio International, CLXXXIV, 1972, p.137

The artist explained in a letter of 27 May 1972 that 'R69-26' is not so much a title as an identification number. R denotes that it is a relief, 69 refers to the year in which it was made and 26 signifies that it was his twenty-sixth relief made in 1969. Similarly his drawings are given the letter T after the Dutch word for drawing 'Tekening'. He used to give his reliefs descriptive titles such as 'System of Diagonals with Inclined Inner Planes', but these sometimes became very long and were not really very useful as a means of identification.

'R69-26' is built out of ordinary cardboard on a wooden base with paper glued over it (some of his other reliefs are made with corrugated cardboard). He says that his first reliefs consisted of open squares and rectangles, but that he later filled up the squares and rectangles with inclined planes, which produced an important change in the play of light and shade. Later still, as in 'R69-26', he also used the inner planes to create diagonal lines which contrasted with the horizontal and vertical ones.

The Tate's relief, like almost all his reliefs, is a unique work inasmuch as he has made no others of the same size and configuration. However there are variants of this theme with, for instance, more 'stars', smaller or larger 'stars', lower or higher ridges, and so on. He did once make a series of three uniform reliefs, but this fact was indicated on the backs. Although he makes rough preparatory models for his reliefs, these models are afterwards destroyed.

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.674-5, reproduced p.674

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