I have come to the conclusion that every artist should marry or enter a long term relationship just so that they can paint and sketch a model always at their disposal. This worked wonders for Picasso and many others, who repeatedly featured their lovers and spouses. For Dutch artist Carel Willink, his second wife – Wilma Jeuken – was his muse and model.
They met in 1930 and married four years later. By then, Willink had returned to figuration, and his works were inspired by the deserted, architectural landscapes of Giorgio di Chirico. The Dutchman gradually built his own style, in the magic realism vein, which emphasized the strangeness and mystery of everyday existence.
In total, Willink painted his second spouse at least eleven times. Yet despite his affection for her, you can’t necessarily sense that in his art. Wilma is often captured in a harsh light, always serious and with an impenetrable gaze. Judging from some of these depictions, she seems more likely to be an estranged relative than a loving partner.
In Wilma, one of the first portraits of Jeunek, Willink has her set against an architectural landscape with a canal. It’s very likely that this sombre, full-length portrait was painted in Amsterdam, where the couple was living at the time. Wilma looks very stiff and uneasy, like someone forced to pose for an unwelcome photograph. She’s well-attired in a blue dress with blue accessories (scarf, belt and gloves) and expensive jewellery, while holding a blue hat in her right hand. Her unnatural pose and her stern, pale face, accentuated by the strident blush and red lipstick, are features that would suggest she feels out of place.
Their marriage endured, lasting until Wilma’s death in 1960, due to a cerebral hemorrhage. I would prefer to think that the manner in which Willink depicted his spouse had more to do with his style than with the feelings they shared for one another.