Carel Willink – Wilma (1932)

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.

Carel Willink - Wilma (1932)
Carel Willink – Wilma (1932)

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.


27 thoughts on “Carel Willink – Wilma (1932)

  1. First up, that estranged relative comparison cracked me up.
    Second, I really have to re organize, re start, my muse search with the marriage agenda in mind. Haha.

    Jokes aside.
    What a way to paint your muse. The building behind could have been the muse too, as it occupies almost equal if not more space. What do the clouds indicate, the mimicking of anger on her face, or something else.
    How simple yet intriguing.

    To draw/paint ones lover. I would always be envious of such craftsmanship.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Welcome back, former biggest fan! That position has remained vacant in your absence.

      I wasn’t trying to be funny with the estranged relative comparison… She simply struck me as an aloof aunt.

      I don’t really know how it works for writers, if they can use their partners as muses or not, though plenty of their wives were acting as literary agents and doing the marketing part. I’d say this: get a lover for the inspiration and a steady partner to promote you. Problem solved.

      Great observations, Willink was big into architecture – he even studied it. Plenty of his paintings are even more eerie and dramatic.


      1. I will look his other paintings up.
        And that is sound advice on the muse and steady partner thing. Ahh, only if life could be resolved in comment sections. 😉
        Thank you for this.

        -Still your biggest fan.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I love your approach to this post. The opening lines had me cracking up. I too hope the stern expression had more to do with style rather than personality 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I really like this. Her look the blue dress, the three-dimensional aspect of her dress, gloves, and cobblestones, and the size, clarity, and detail of the house behind her. Her killer attitude doesn’t’ hurt anything either.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I love this painting. My husband paints me sometimes I say to him do what you like, and usually I am happy for him to distort the image, make me look a bit crazy, glum whatever as I am his only sitter. The only time I did not like a painting he did of me was when he made me look really fat. So maybe Wilma was the same, and said “so long as look I elegant, I don’t mind how you paint me”!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh no, don’t men know that’s the cardinal sin – to show a woman fat? Even when she is truly fat! Thanks for sharing this funny anecdote, Emma. Your husband is really lucky to have you as a model.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m mostly drawn to the sully reflected building in the water and the clouds. But, yeah, she’s dour alright. Kinda’ reminds me of one of my art history teacher’s theories that Velásquez’ portraits of royalty were sometimes deliberate mockeries which he assumed the subjects were too stupid to figure out. I imagine him muttering some things under his breath about her while making the painting. But, obviously we don’t know the real story. He may have just wanted her to play that role for the image. Or maybe that’s just the way she looks and he’s fond of that look. Who knows?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. 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. Worked for me!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m betting the troubled or even disgruntled look on her face is due to the standing pose in those shoes. I’m sure that painting took a number of poses, perhaps lasting several hours each. I can just hear her: “Carel, can I take a break? My feet are killing me; and my leg is falling asleep.” In my experience, models hate standing poses and prefer sitting or reclining. The gray clouds seem to reflect her expression, but I could be reading too much into it.
    If he was an architect, it’s only natural that he would have an affinity for painting buildings. And by placing it near water, he gets to paint it twice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That makes sense, I would hate to stand for hours in such a pose. As for the clouds, Willink often painted overcast skies and many of his other portrait subjects look uneasy too. Could be just his style.


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