Wouter Maas has recently been working with us at Gallery Sorelle Sciarone. He has beautifully described a few paintings here at the gallery. You will be seeing more of his descriptions the coming time.
This interview is to introduce Wouter Maas, the Art Historian and his journey to this point. Hope you love learning more about the lovely individual in the arts and whose work you might have read on LinkedIn, Instagram or here at the gallery. Hope you enjoy meeting Wouter as much as we did!
Interview: Art Historian of the 21st Century
Who? Wouter Maas
What? Art Historian
When? Early 21s century (2020)
Where? The Netherlands
Why? Insight into people in the Dutch Art World 2020-2030
On becoming an Art Historian
1. Please tell us something about yourself.
I am Wouter Maas, I am 32 years old, and grew up in Brabant in the South of the Netherlands. Currently, I live in Amsterdam, where I studied art history, but before that, I spend 7 years in the city of Maastricht, where I studied – but did not finish – medicine.
2. How did you get into what you do right now?
I was always interested in art, not only paintings and sculpture but also music and the theatre, I never really considered a career in that area because, at the time, medicine seamed the ‘logic’ study for me. In 2014, at TEFAF, an international art fair, I got into contact with people working for a gallery. They opened my eyes. The passion these people had for their profession, the works of art they had seen, the knowledge they had: it was inspirational. A few months later I found myself a first-year student art history at 27. During my Bachelor, I discovered that I did not only liked the art market, but also research, which is why I applied for a research Master’s program, which I finished after what can be best described as a lot of travelling, stress, and museum experiences.
3. Who are your role models?
Hard question. I look up to several of my professors at the University of Amsterdam that lit a flame in me about art. Hugo van der Velden, Machtelt Brüggen Israëls, Wendelien Welie-Vink en Arjan de Koomen, made me want to see, do research and generally just know more about paintings, sculptures, and architecture. One of my favourite authors is Ernst Gombrich, a scholar that died almost 20 years ago. Still, reading even texts he wrote in the 60s, it still seems so on point, and you can feel the wonder he had about what he researched and was writing about. Generally, however, I think everyone that follows their heart and studies or works in the arts is amazingly admirable. It’s not the easiest career path, so you know everyone in the field must be passionate.
What drives Wouter as an Art Historian?
4. What inspires you?
Making art understandable. I feel that for a lot of people art has a certain unapproachable level and snobbish image. Truth be said, I was a little bit intimidated the first few times a set foot into a commercial art gallery. My tip: don’t be. Art is for everyone to enjoy, and all the galleries I visit are happy to have me, without the people that work there pressuring me to buy anything. Same goes for museums, even if they are housed in the most imposing buildings in a city, they are made for visitors. In short: art is for viewing, not for storage.
5. Please tell us about you as an Art Historian.
For a long time I was ‘looking,’ I found it hard to pick a path choosing the things I wanted to learn to become a specialist in one field or another. Actually, too a certain extent, I still am. I might be triggered too much by new works of art I see, by people I meet and talking about what interests them, by books I read. It made me develop into an art historian with a broad base that keeps on being eager to learn and explore.
6. What’s your most memorable experience?
A fairly funny one, in hindsight. I had to do a presentation at the Cappella Capponi Capponi in the Santa Felicita, in Florence (it is not a huge tourist attraction, but if you are in the city, visit it). A couple of minutes into my story an elderly lady was running amuck. Eventually, we had to leave, because they were ‘about to’ read mass (I would have finished way before the start), and I had to finish my presentation in the square in front of the church. The point here is that the art that I was discussing was not just art for the lady – or people celebrating mass. It was an integral part of what was needed to profess faith. That realisation was a really powerful one.
7. What’s your greatest fear?
This is obvious: that something would happen to my loved ones. Taking about art though, it is destruction. History has proven that images – art – are vulnerable and can easily be the victim of anger. For some reason, as a cultural expression, one feels she or he has the licence to destroy art. Think of the Dutch Beeldenstorm (1566), of more recently the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamyan (2001), and the ravaging of Palmyra (2015 and 2016).
Wouter on "growth" and personal development
8. Looking back, what’s one thing you wish you understood better before you ever got started?
That art is not just ‘pretty’ or ‘something to understand,’ it is functional, emotional, professional, hard work, but most of all, I am convinced that art is necessary.
9. What are the strategies that helped you become successful in your journey?
Keeping in mind a goal, and although that goal changed over the years, it was always encouraging to have something to work to. By which I do not mean that anyone is ever ‘finished,’ we are all here to grow, that is something I try to do (almost) every day.
10. What keeps you going when things get tough?
My friends and family, it is good to have someone else reflect on what keeps you busy, certainly when you feel you are drowning in it all. Family for their unconditional love, friends not working in the arts reminding you what you have already achieved, and then friends in the arts, giving you a pointer or two.
11. What is the one thing you wish people knew more about the art world?
People working in the arts are not snobs, and although we have the image of being boring, trust me, we are not.
Wouter Maas and his roommate recreating the Pieta for the populair #tussenkunstenquarentaine Instagram account. Hundreds of people have recreated their favourite paintings and sculptures, during the COVID-19 quarentine in The Netherlands.
Wouter Maas the Art Historian
Wouter has described three paintings at the gallery for us. He has lovingly analysed each painting to the point of perfection. He takes the reader on a journey through the painting, so that you can see the painting, the way an expert reads a painting. The way Wouter describes a painting is academic and delves deep into art historical aspects. See his writing as a diving board for your own analysis. No one description or interpretation is exhaustive or definite. And that is the beauty of art. We hope that the paintings analyzed by Wouter inspires everyone to think about art more. Or at least to see a written analysis verbalise the visual cumulation of art and history in each painting.
Wouter, thank you for taking the time to do this interview with us. We are very lucky and thankful for you exquisite analysis.