Dirk Filarski

Dirk Filarski grew up in the painter’s district of Amsterdam and developed into an icon of Dutch painting. In his very powerful and colourful paintings, set up in curls and curves that seem to consist of a myriad of colours, he boldly filled the linen to the last millimetre.

In mid-August 1907, Filarski met the artist Dirk Smorenberg in Bergen. They painted together, creating colourful impressions of the Bergen surroundings that year. In 1908, both artists participated for the first time in the exhibition of the Guild of Saint Luke (Sint Lucas) in Amsterdam, a painting society open to modernism with many young artists as members at that time. The exhibitions of Sint Lucas gained prominence in that year and especially in the years that followed, becoming significant for the Dutch art scene. Filarski’s palette was infused with light during those years. Amsterdam Luminism, championed by Jan Sluijters, among others, also gained popularity in Bergen, North Holland, from 1910. However, the subjects there were mostly derived from nature, focusing on landscapes with a strong luministic character.

Filarski’s life as an artist began in Bergen, but soon the wild abroad caught his attention. In 1916, Filarski undertook his first long journey to Switzerland. In 1916, he embarked on his first extensive trip to Switzerland. Wandering through the Bernese Oberland, he found inspiration in dozens of mountain spires, walls, and chains. He spent weeks working in St. Moritz and several more by Lake Lucerne. His palette underwent a profound transformation during this journey; he abandoned luminous impressionism in favour of deep, rich colours. The depth of the colours was enhanced by a strong contrast effect. True to form, Filarski proceeded without hesitation and with a passionate directness.
He had already gained recognition in Bergen, where the so-called ‘Bergen School’ was founded a few years earlier by painters Henri Le Fauconnier and Piet van Wijngaerdt. Filarski received numerous rave reviews and maintained friendships with fellow Bergen painters such as Leo Gestel, Harrie Kuyten, and Mathieu Wiegman. This led him to encounter a loving collector: Piet Boendermaker. The son of an Amsterdam contractor and broker, Boendermaker relocated to Bergen around the same time as Filarski. He was immediately captivated by Filarski’s work and began purchasing a significant number of paintings from him starting in 1915. This friendship enabled the artist for no less than fifteen years to live a fairly carefree life, allowing him to afford foreign travel and pursue his artistic passions without financial constraints.

Often emphasising that he couldn’t create without the inspiration of new experiences, travelling became essential for Filarski. In 1921, he journeyed to France, where he continued to paint his works in earthy colours and highly simplified forms. After these somewhat darker works, Filarski gradually returned to lighter themes around 1923, and by 1927, there was a noticeable shift in his painting style. Previously focusing on large, monumental surfaces, he began to pay more attention to detail. His gaze no longer only registered the large and monumental, but with attention to detail he went on to depict old dilapidated walls, weathered city walls, and sagging gates and facades.

Sometimes the artist’s workplaces were far apart. And it was not always possible to draw the line clearly, simply because the artist certainly did not send a message to Dutch on a daily or weekly basis. In any case, Filarski was a good customer of the railways, because a solid journey was never an obstacle for him. Once, when he was working in Spain, he sat on a train for twenty-four consecutive hours together with a heavily grumbling Germ de Jong. But that grumbling from his friend and colleague always began only after the drinks were gone.

Filarski worked in Mallorca and Corsica on multiple occasions, with his 1930 journey being the last one financed by Piet Boendermaker, who was declared bankrupt by that time. Filarski was no doubt inspired by the yellowish, sandy hues of the Mallorcan landscape, which are charmingly rendered in his paintings. In the second half of the twenties, he was even found in Morocco. With pleasure and in very sunny, southern tones, he captured the North African landscapes, city walls, kilns, and alleys. These paintings all exude a light and sunny atmosphere. Neither did the European art capital, Paris, escape from Filarski’s attention. In Paris, Filarski stayed with Matthieu Wiegman, who provided him with accommodation in his studio. Filarski’s Parisian cityscapes depict a colourful Paris with its wonderful architecture.

Filarski as an artist was a wandering traveller par excellence, but in the early forties he decided to seek attractive and picturesque places within the Netherlands. This eventually led him to Staphorst, where he maintained a dear friendship with the artist Stien Eelsing and her husband Roel Frankot. Around 1940, he even moved in with them, along with his son Gerard. Staphorst served as Filarski’s home base for his artistic endeavors in the eastern Netherlands, leading him to Giethoorn where he rekindled his appreciation for the beauty of his homeland.