Like his contemporaries Charley Toorop (1891-1955) and Raoul Hynckes (1893-1973), Wim Schuhmacher (1894-1986) regularly painted skulls and dead animals. Still Life with Skulls and Bird Skeleton was made during the Second World War. A child’s skull and that of a monkey rest on a piece of driftwood ,... with a bird skeleton on the right. Small insects crawl around.
Schuhmacher probably found inspiration in 17th-century vanitas still lifes, although the composition of these works is different. He was probably also influenced by his contemporaries, such as Hynckes.
Schuhmacher initially worked in various Modernist styles, including Luminism with powerful light effects, and Cubo-Expressionism with angular forms and spontaneous brushstrokes. Eventually, he turned to meticulous Realism in shades of grey and ochre, which earned him a place in the art historical canon.
Given the absence of any formal artistic training, he lacked technical skills in some respects. His extremely detailed working method often allowed him to conceal this deficiency by and large; however, perspective always remained somewhat problematic. From the 1930s onward, his work became increasingly detailed, as is manifest in this 1942 still life.
Text: Myrthe Wesseling, guide and museum host