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Artists and scientists revel in Drenthe
The wild, untouched landscape of Drenthe serves as a source of inspiration for painters and scientists in the second half of the 19th century. Landscape painters and impressionists capture the ancient landscape and farm life on canvas. From Drenthe, Vincent van Gogh writes letters to his brother Theo. Anthropologists study how small, agrarian communities live with nature. The dolmens receive a lot of international attention as well.
Liebermann and Van Gogh
Starting in 1871 the German painter and impressionist Max Liebermann regularly spends time in the Netherlands. While he paints cheerful and colourful paintings on the The Hague coast, his inspiration in Drenthe comes from the stark reality of agricultural life. Inspired by his work, Vincent van Gogh decides to travel by train to Hoogeveen in 1883. During the three weeks that he spends in Drenthe, he writes several letters to his brother Theo. In one of these letters, he enthusiastically proclaims, ‘I feel I may have found my country.’
Drenthe serves as a source of inspiration for other painters as well, including H.W. Mesdag from the Hague School and Amsterdam impressionist G.H. Breitner. In the art world, 'Drentsch' even becomes a trademark that stands for an ancient landscape with wide heathlands, mysterious dolmens, and picturesque villages.
Charting the Dolmens
Drenthe draws in scientists as well. In 1878, the Society of Antiquaries of London sent the British amateur scientists Lukis and Dryden to Drenthe to study the Dolmens. William Collings Lukis described the dolmens and drew camera lucida perspectives of them. Sir Henry Dryden rapidly created very accurate measurement drawings. In just thirteen days they documented forty dolmens. Their work in the 19th century was followed up on by the Dutch archaeologist van Giffen, also called the 'father of the dolmens'.
Well into the 20th century, agricultural traditions in Drenthe were passed down from generation to generation. That made it the perfect location for New York anthropologists John and Dorothy Keur to conduct their research into medieval farming life. In 1954 they arrived in Anderen, a close-knit community of 260 people where at that time life was still determined by the rhythm of the seasons.
In the Drents Museum you can find various paintings that portray the countryside of Drenthe. In Veenoord (Nieuw-Amsterdam), the guest house where Vincent van Gogh stayed is open to the public. There is a permanent exhibition on display dedicated to the painter. In order to get a sense of Drenthe as Van Gogh would have seen it, you can also visit the museum village of Orvelte.