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Annotated on backside: Wedding in Holland, H.J. Mengels 1968 and a price of $6000. Signed on recto, right corner below.

Hubertus Johannes (Ber) Mengels (1921 Heerlen - 1995 The Hague, The Netherlands)

Painting, oil on canvas, Wedding in Holland, 1968

The Netherlands

Design period:

Production period:

Identifying marks:
Signed on recto bottom right, titled and dated on verso


In good, unrestored condition.

Oil on canvas


Image W 41.0 x H 30.0 cm | frame W 50.0 x H 40.0 cm

Hubertus Johannes (Ber) Mengels (6 May 1921-19 June 1995), born in Heerlen, The Netherlands, enters the coal mine at the age of 16 after a loveless childhood. In 1943 he had to go into hiding to escape the Arbeitseinsatz. The bitter experiences of mining and war misery did not faze Mengels. On the contrary, they gave him a strong thinking character and a keen eye for the human condition. His art also reflects this: it is permeated with an engagement with the oppressed and disillusioned human being and is full of political and social protests. Mengels was not fond of coquettishness or decoration, nor of superficiality in his work. He was not so naive as to believe, like Arp and Schwitters, that art can change the world and make life more bearable.

Apart from a number of drawing courses and a course in aircraft engineering, Mengels is a self-taught artist. He had developed himself not only as a painter but in many areas, because he satisfied his all-encompassing curiosity by reading a lot. World literature, (art) history, politics, technology, psychology, philosophy. He preferred Wilhelm Reich, Jung, Freud, the age-old pessimist. Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, of whom he knew whole quotations by heart. He was also interested in Eastern Zen philosophy. He also knew a lot about ethnography, partly due to the many trips he made with his wife Pauline during the 1960s to North Africa and the Balkans, among other places. Those trips also resulted in beautiful drawings, watercolors and paintings. If you visited him, you would receive whole lectures about these fields, especially after midnight, with sometimes surprising and original horizontal and vertical connections. In the meantime he lit his ever-extinguished cigarette with a large old-fashioned petrol lighter, a beer within reach. Pills from books were taken off their shelves and held on their laps. His inimitable Limburgish speech gave the whole an extra cachet. In the late hours you left the large building with a head full of acquired knowledge, in which bulging bookcases extend into the hallway.

Production and experiment
Ber started drawing and painting during the war years, but his production really got going after he came to live in The Hague in 1950. In the early years, the influences of that time in his work are visible in the graphic approach to the subject and in the contour. Gradually he becomes freer and, above all, more idiosyncratic. Protest and resistance remain visible and tangible in his oeuvre over the years, even in his non-figurative work. His creative drive was governed by two drives: production and experimentation. Ber has worked hard all his life, like a miner. His studio was also a kind of mine. It was located on a large deep parterre, in which for the layman total chaos reigned. Stocks of wood, iron, steel and aluminum; old rusting machine parts. Ber dragged everything from the street that he thought he could use. Easels, cabinets full of tools, jars of pigment and painting supplies. All that piled up to the ceiling. Man-sized stacks of sheets of graphics, drawings, sketches, watercolors, paper and cardboard. Shelves full of paintings with homemade frames around them. There was hardly any daylight, Ber always worked under artificial light and usually at night.

"Style is fear" was Ber's motto. It is an expression of resistance against clichés and templates and perhaps also against himself: he did not want to repeat himself. So Ber experimented with styles and techniques, from figurative to abstract with oil and acrylic and also with pigment, mixed with glue, resin, wax, dust or sand. They became beautiful (semi) abstract carved landscapes or skies with sometimes crusty layers of paint. When grazing light falls on it, you see the intensity of the applied paint and the structures and the painting comes to life. His last painting - it was still on the easel when he died - has visionary features. A green ravaged landscape with a high horizon; top left a lightning yellow key in the black-blue sky that has been swept onto the panel. Armageddon approaching.

In the 1970s, Ber also started making sculptures of wood, plastic and papier-mache, and later small bronze sculptures. Without exception they depict the human figure. Also in these sculptures, usually in the body language, there is always something of sarcasm, irony, humor or mockery with regard to human fate. Around 1990, Ber starts constructing musical objects. Music was his hidden love. He loved Schubert, but more than that authentic jazz and folk music, because that too is protest and it comes from the heart of the common man. And of course from the Threepenny Opera. He built dozens of stringed instruments, sometimes with ethnographic references, which he called bowed poles or wall harps. Some have more than 10 steel strings that you can tune to the correct pitch with real tuners. The string posts are complemented by a self-made bow. Unfortunately, it never happened to organize a "concert" with professional musicians with some of these string instruments. They are certainly suitable for that and it would undoubtedly make a beautiful symphony of image and sound.

He was highly valued as a teacher at the Free Academy (Vrije Academie), among others. Not only because of his extensive (professional) knowledge, but also because he approached his students in a democratic manner. The arrogant distance from artist to layman did not suit him; on the contrary, he knew how to value and stimulate every student with a lot of patience and advice ("do an bit of blue at the top right, then it will be better balanced"). Ber was a humble person and spent less than an hour on any promotional activity during his life. He had been a member of the Haagse Kunstkring since 1954 and in 1969 - by invitation - working member of Pulchri, but otherwise he did not belong to any association or artist group. Groups presuppose equality or at least solidarity, and a loner like Ber was not capable of that. In the meantime he worked steadily and built up an entire oeuvre. Ber Mengels has regularly exhibited both in Puchri and abroad. His work has been purchased by the government, municipalities and institutions, and by private collectors who recognized the high quality of his work.
Oil on canvas painting
Wedding in Holland
Stacks Image 65

€ 1.150,00