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Dick Ket (The Netherlands 1902-1940)

”Zelfportret (voor een landschap)”

To be sold at Uppsala Auktionskammare’s Important Sale: Modern & Contemporary 9 – 10 November 2022

Lot 483 Dick Ket (The Netherlands 1902-1940). ”Zelfportret (voor een landschap)”. Signed and dated D Ket 1927 lower right. Oil on panel, 28.5 x 23 cm.


1.200.000 – 1.500.000 SEK
€ 110.000 – 137.000


Kunstzaal van Lier, Amsterdam, after 1941.
On loan to the Groninger Museum from 1956 to 1975, inv. no. 1956/24 (as Zelfportret met grijze hoed).
Prof. dr. G. Kraus, Groningen, 1975.
A Swedish private collection.


Kunstzaal van Lier, Amsterdam, ”Herinneringstentoonstelling Dick Ket”, 5 April-24 April 1941, cat. no. 5.
Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, ”Dick Ket 1902-1940”, 19 August-24 September 1941, cat. no. 1.
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, ”Dick Ket 1902-1940”, 4 October-3 November 1941, cat. no. 1.
Gemeentemuseum, Arnhem, ”Dick Ket 1902-1940”, December 1941-January 1942, cat. no. 1.
Stedelijk Museum Het Prinsenhof, Delft, ”Keuze uit de collecties van E.J. Duintjer Jzn. en
Prof. dr. G. Kraus”, 21 December-10 February 1957, cat. no. 66.
Gemeentemuseum Arnhem, ”Keuze uit de collecties van E.J. Duintjer Jzn. en Prof. dr. G. Kraus”,
24 February-31 March 1957, cat. no. 66.
Groninger Museum, Groningen, ”Keuze uit de collecties van E.J. Duintjer Jzn. en Prof. dr. G. Kraus”, 1957, cat. no. 66.
Groniger Museum, Groningen, ”Keuze uit aanwinsten 1955-1960”, 8 April-8 May 1960, cat. no. 205.
Gemeentemuseum, Arnhem, ”Dick Ket”, 1962-1963, cat. no. 5.
Singer Memorial Foundation, Laren, ”Dick Ket”, 23 February-15 April 1963, cat. no. 5.
Cultureel Centrum de Beyerd, Breda, ”Dick Ket”, 19 April-26 May 1963, cat. no. 5.


Gemeentemuseum and Stedelijk Museum, exhibition catalogue for Dick Ket 1902-1940, 1941, illustrated.
C. Veth, Herinneringstentoonstelling Dick Ket in de kunstzaal Van Lier Amsterdam, 1941, p. 154.
H. van Hall, Portretten van Nederlandse beeldende kunstenaars, 1963, no. 1, p. 165.
Alied Ottevanger, Dick Ket. Over zijn leven, ideeën en kunst, 1994, no. 44, illustrated p. 154.

In context

The extraordinary early self-portrait by magic realist Dick Ket

Noted for his striking self-portraits and wonderful still lifes, Dick Ket executed a total of 140 paintings and most of them were made in the last ten years of his life. Due to a serious heart defect he was prevented from travelling and his world was restricted to his own home and its immediate surroundings. Most of his limited production is held in important museum collections today and only a few works are still in private hands. Included in the sale is the stunning ”Zelfportret (voor een landschap)” dated 1927, never before offered at auction and presenting the exciting opportunity to acquire one of Dick Ket’s important works from a private collection.

The extraordinary life of Dick Ket began in 1902. Born in Den Helder, a small port in the far north of the Netherlands, Ket spent his childhood in Hoorn and Ede before attending the Kunstoefening in Arnhem from 1922 to 1925. His life was deeply affected by a congenital heart defect, believed to be tetralogy of Fallot with dextrocardia which was incurable at that time. The defect caused insufficient nourishment of organs, resulting in ”drumstick fingers” or hippocratic fingers. His clubbed fingers appear in many of Dick Ket’s self-portraits, such as in the present work where the artist is portrayed holding the brush in his left hand. Ket’s disease made it hard for him to fit in with his peers at school, but two of his teachers encouraged his artistic ambitions. His drawing teacher John C. Kerkemeijer convinced him to try oil painting and opened the door to further develop his talent. In addition to the practical lessons, his teacher in chemistry and physics influenced him to explore the relation between the laws of physics and existence. Many years later, when Dick Ket was already a working artist, he wrote in a letter to his fiancée Nel Schilt dated 16 August 1939: ”What I want with painting is; the penetrating nature of the ’Primitieven’, the broadness of a Breitner and the decorative understanding of a Cassandre.”

Dick Ket spent most of his life secluded in his parents’ house in Bennekom, a small town which is part of the Municipality of Ede in the Netherlands. His early paintings depicted still lifes of colourful flowers arranged in vases, landscapes from the surroundings of Ede and self-portraits. Often considered a ”neo realist” or a ”magic realist”, Dick Ket admired Wim Schuhmacher’s still lifes but was always most impressed with late medieval and early renaissance art. He admired trompe l’oeil paintings, carefully painted details and a smooth way of painting. Since he was prevented from travelling and mostly stayed indoors, he explored classic and modern art mostly through reproductions in books. In his own still lifes and self-portraits, he developed his own form of trompe l’oeil which he combined with an outstanding realism. In a letter dated 10 November 1932 to Nel Schilt he stated: “I have reflected on Homan saying that art brings sorrow and I am quite the opposite opinion… We work to the happiness of others and to our own joy… Art is a necessity, an urge, a birth, a creation is as a redemption of the mind, the satisfaction of a tension, an expressed philosophy of life, a part of our life itself maybe and although there are moments of set-back during the process, which cause grief, this is a completely different and much higher order”. In Alied Ottevanger’s bibliography of Dick Ket’s life and works, the present work from 1927 is reproduced, showing one of the earliest examples of his famous self-portraits. Only four self-portraits are mentioned in the oeuvre catalogue before ”Zelfportret (voor een landschap)”, the earliest two dated 1924 (one of them reproduced p. 151). The present work depicts Dick Ket wearing a grey hat, which he also wore in ”Zelfportret (met hoed)” from the same year, looking straight at the viewer with a steady gaze. Playing with illusions, Ket is showing the edge of an unfinished canvas on the left side, which apparently he is currently working on with his brush. Behind him appears a village and snowy fields, suggesting the painting was executed in the winter months or early springtime. The tower behind his left shoulder could perhaps be the Old church in Bennekom.

The self-portraits became a recurring and important theme in Dick Ket’s oeuvre, in which he excelled. In these striking portraits, he proved his immense talent and outstanding ability to capture his own personality and features. Between 1924 and 1940 he painted forty self-portraits, each one revealing his failing health at progressing stages. His heart defect eventually led to his early death 1940 in Bennekom, a few days before his 38th birthday. 

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