Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Oyens Brothers

Left: David Oyens by Pieter Oyens. Right: Pieter Oyens by David Oyens
Pieter and David Oyens were identical-twin painters who lived and worked in Brussels, Belgium. 

Pieter Oyens, The Art Lover, 1878
They were born into a big banking family in Amsterdam with a generous inheritance. 

Uninterested in the family business, they studied art instead, often posing for each other. They adopted a Bohemian lifestyle, and gradually became more successful. 

David Oyens, The Stroll, 1877
David got married in 1866, which was a difficult adjustment for Pieter. 
"David and Pieter Oyens were so alike that even David’s wife Betsy found it hard to tell them apart: thinking that she was talking to her husband, she once asked Pieter to ask his brother (that is, himself) not to come round quite so often. Their work was also very similar, not only in style and technique but also in choice of subjects (generally studio and cafe scenes). As a result, it is often very difficult to ascribe works simply signed ‘Oyens’ to the right twin." (Source)
David Oyens, Drawing, 1878
Pieter eventually got married in 1893, but suffered a stroke soon after, and died before the birth of his daughter. 

Pieter's death devastated David, who almost ceased painting. David died in 1902 and was buried beside his brother.


Erich Jon said...

Interesting post. Reminds me a little bit of Tim and Greg Hildebrant. I'm not sure if they were this close or not. They did work simultaneously on the their paintings for the Lord of the Rings...Tim passed away in 2006, Greg is still going strong.
Thanks for all you share James.

Tom Hart said...

Thanks again, James, for bringing yet more under-represented artists to our attention. If I've run across the Oyens brothers before (which I doubt), I've forgotten all about them. It's daunting to realize how many fine artists are generally "forgotten", not considered to be among the "big names" that most of us are familiar with, although they clearly deserve master status. I haven't given a lot of thought to how or why some artists come to be thought of as more "important" than others. I wonder: Is it commercial success, the attention of collectors (spurred by gallery owners), and/or recognition by museum curators? Or all of the above? I guess it boils down to the same kind of accident that propels some musical artists to Grammy status.

James Gurney said...

Tom, I've thought a lot about that, too. When I read the art magazines from 1880-1920, I'm always running across extremely competent artists who I've never encountered in contemporary accounts of art history. Some of this is the phenomenon where figures who are already familiar are continually reinforced in the public eye.

Their fame justifies their fame, while obscure people stay obscure, because 'if they were any good, why haven't I heard of them?' To answer your question, I think the "big names" you speak of can owe much of their fame to having a good human story attached to their career. And the best way to resurrect those who we regard as unjustifiably overlooked is simply to tell their stories.

If you want to read more about these lesser known artists and their stories, check out Archive.org and look for the Studio International magazine, or Pencil and Brush magazine, or follow Linda Crank on Facebook.