landscape with red clouds

Designing an exhibition usually starts by selecting a few works that underpin the theme. These works are the cornerstones of the exhibition, the foundations of a collection. The paintings by the Frisian artist Gerrit Benner (Leeuwarden, 1897 – Nijemirdum, 1981) define and form the basis ofHorizons, the presentation of modern art in the Fries Museum. The artist Gerrit Benner wanted to explore his place as an insignificant creature in Friesland’s bleak natural expanses.

landschap met rode wolken, 1969, olieverf op doek, AG Benner, collectie provincie Fryslân

This vision and outlook on life also resonate with the idea many people have of the Frisians. The Frisian people are people who can live in isolation, who can take care of themselves, and who allow the rest of the world with its hustle and bustle to glide by silently, like a train on a distant horizon. People from the far north have made friends with the water, with the sea and the falling rain. They construct dams, ditches and dikes to create pastures. And best of all: people here are far from the depravities of the city. A veritable natural legend appears.

Gerrit Benner is a painter who has a unique way of portraying nature in his works. As the title of this work promises, the clouds are red (with yellow and green) and they hang in the sky like monumental slabs. Throughout his career, Benner simplified form, reducing complicated shapes to their essence. The sky and the land are fellow giants in this painting, equally dominant in the scene. Gerrit Benner’s landscapes are characterised by low horizons that evoke sensations of infinity, lending more authenticity to his works. Friesland is proud of Benner, a self-taught artist whose work was recognised by being exhibited in the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. All his life, Brenner remained faithful to his muse: the panoramic views in the Frisian countryside.