Make to order. 1900-1960 advertising studios in Rotterdam

Siebe Thissen Essay for the Rotterdams Jaarboekje 2017, 20.11.2017
In Atelier Leo Mineur, 1956 (collection Atelier Leo Mineur)

Until well into the twentieth century, the boundaries between free art and applied art were very porous. Not without reason reporters preferred the concept of 'artist' when they wrote about a visual artist in the newspapers. In that name the artisan (craftsman) and the artist (artist) after all packed together. An exemplary representative was the decorator and painter Jan Gidding, founder of the famous Firma Gidding. Since the end of the nineteenth century, the studio has been carrying out decorative programs for theaters, churches and villas. After Gidding's death in 1914, the family business was continued by his sons Jaap and Marinus. Willem de Kooning also worked from 1916 to 1921 in the studio of the Gidding brothers, where he was hired at the age of twelve. Ateliers were not always small-scale private companies. Many large companies also had their own decoration workshops. The Rotterdam artist Nico Benschop found work as a painter at the Holland America Line in 1919 at the age of twelve. 'I learned the trade in that painting workshop. I have done everything there: lacquerware, marble, piping, putting letters. You worked thirteen hours a day. Then I went to Atelier Engelman, which, among other things, painted cinema advertisements. I was heavily underpaid, but learned a lot again '.

Double professional practice
Combinations of both professional practices were very common and a commercial approach did not have to stand in the way of a successful career as a free artist. For example, during the interbellum period Herman Bieling was a decorator at the Grote Schouwburg. Only a handful of artists could live from pure free practice of art. Until around 1960, this dual professional practice was necessary, because the performance and other social arrangements barely made any sense. During the Rotterdam Ahoy 1950 and Energie 1955 (E55) city events, artists and advertising studios worked frantically alongside and with each other. Many independent artists turned out not to be too bad to earn some money alongside their free work with the decoration of pavilions and eateries. Almost without exception, artists did their jobs in advertising companies, shopping centers, (burial) stonemasons, glass companies or printers. The management of the Academy of Visual Arts also encouraged students in 1950 to make a choice for the decoration industry. In those days, the vast majority of the two hundred Rotterdam visual artists were dependent on side jobs and income from spouses. But their income never approached the salary of a skilled worker. 'If you write about us', a Rotterdam artist told 1950 to a reporter, 'don't forget our women in particular - they have it even harder than us'. And so the domain of the visual arts extended deep into the dark and dusty advertising and decoration studios. The studio functioned as a safety net and springboard: distressed artists were able to use their talents to make artisan craftsmanship to order and young talents could climb up to independent visual artists.

Moreover, the studios also contributed to the urban beautification of Rotterdam. Not only works of art and ornamentation increased the visual attractiveness of the city, but also advertising. The manufacture of street advertising was an honorable profession, because 'in a city where there is nothing to read, you can no longer find your way. Without advertising, the city is uninviting and boring, "says a master painter of a Rotterdam advertising studio. In the Maasstad, many artists found work in three successful advertising companies: Atelier Engelman (founded in 1900), Atelier Leo Mineur (founded in 1924) and Atelier Schrijver (founded in 1943). These studios offered artists work and encouraged a love of art - also among young people, amateurs and self-taught teachers. The creative entrepreneur Albert 'Ab' Wayers, partner of Leo Mineur, took that educational promise very seriously: 'The capacity for intuitive perception is not limited to the creative artist. Anyone who truly experiences art sees more than shape and color in a painting. But that experience requires practice, otherwise this ability is gradually lost, just as someone loses sight, he would spend his entire life in a dark dungeon. A person without an artistic disposition can also cultivate that capacity for judgment within himself, by studying the art often and with concentration. ' And could that deepening not take place par excellence in the advertising studio, where masters, companions and students worked together and passed on their knowledge, but also knew their place in the hierarchy?

The name giver of the studio was at the top of the ranking; often a charismatic father figure with quirky views about visual art and equipped with great confidence in the possibilities of commercial applications of art. Immediately below were the artists, often recognizable by their plastron and characteristic clothing. They were usually trained at the art academy with an excellent reputation, who passed on their technical knowledge and artistic insights to young helpers. At the bottom of the hierarchy were the volunteers and students, who swept the workplace, mixed paint, painted plates, colored backgrounds and were allowed to carry the lugging. If a student had sufficient talent, he was often sent to the evening course at the academy. A studio accepted students at a very young age. "I wanted to be a painter from the age of eight," Wayers recalled. "But my father told me that painting would lead to life in poverty until death. When I left school at the age of eleven, I had managed to persuade my father to study with an artist who had just started a studio in a side street of the Goudsesingel. Young students spent long days and often found a second home in the studio. "The boss was the most important man in my life," John Maurits van Emden recalled in his life memories. He started in 1951 at the age of fourteen in Atelier Schrijver on the Bloklandstraat in the Old North. "I saw my boss very much, became a loyal employee and believed in the man unconditionally." Van Emden finally graduated cum laude at the evening academy. Thanks to the arts, he managed to escape 'the so oppressive and oppressive petty bourgeoisie' of post-war Rotterdam. 'I went to museums, exhibitions a lot… I knew too little, also socially, and wanted to get rid of my perilous background.' The studio also promoted social and cultural mobility in post-war Rotterdam.

Leo Mineur
In the context of urban beautification in Rotterdam, it makes sense to pay some attention to the advertising studios. Because their founders and employees were also part of the artist's life and enjoyed a certain reputation in the city. Until today, the name of Leo Mineur is attached to that circuit of ateliers: self-taught and entrepreneur. The life and work of this entrepreneur offers more insight into the close relationships between the world of the visual arts and that of the business world. Mineur was a real advertising man, but also a painter, whose free works even permeated the homes of Rotterdammers. More than sixty years ago, the family of artist and radio maker Wim de Boek acquired a somewhat sentimental, exotic painting by him. After years of loyal service as a cleaning lady, his mother, Dora de Boek-Jankowski, had received the canvas as a gift from Louis Holvoet, a Rotterdam-based organist who lives on Molenwaterweg. The work shows a desert landscape, the Sahara, in which a pyramid stands out and a veiled Tuareg passes by on a camel. There is a kneeling figure in front of his camel. Is it a devout Muslim in prayer? Or a prisoner enslaved? Painted with oil, romantic, dark and oriental, the painting looks like a cover of the old boy's books by Karl May. His classics From Baghdad to Istanbul (1892) in Kara ben Nemsi: Hero of the desert (1892) had adventurous wraps, incorporating the Middle East in place, atmosphere and otherness was brought closer. Before you had saved the first page you were already in the grip of the story. The painted desert landscape also echoes the exotic, American and Parisian jazz of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. Radio hits like The Rose of Bombay, The Sheik of Araby, Abdullah, Casbah en Egyptian Fantasy not only witnessed a fascination for the strange and the exciting, but also brought the distant world of the east to the dance floor and the living room. At the bottom right of the painting is the name of the maker: Leo Mineur.

Leo Mineur was a Rotterdam celebrity, a household name, a brand. A van is still driving in Rotterdam on which large company names are printed on the paint: Atelier Leo Mineur. The company logo was designed by artist Dolf Henkes, a personal friend of Mineur. The brand name is illustrated with the portrait of Multatuli, after a wall painting by Mathieu Ficheroux in the Van Oldenbarneveltstraat. Since the 1980s, this advertising company has carried out the lion's share of the Rotterdam murals on behalf of artists. The portrait of Multatuli (Seen from the moon, we are all the same size) was carried out in 1975 by artisans of the workshop. Initially the painting hung in the Mauritsstraat, opposite the bookstore Woutertje Pieterse, which specializes in poetry.

Atelier Leo Mineur is running at full speed, but Leo Mineur is long dead. He may tacitly count as a legend in Rotterdam, but no book or article has been devoted to him so far. The most beautiful portrait of Mineur is on the website of one of his students, the Rotterdam artist Theodorus Huson. The photo shows a stylish 'state portrait', in which an older Mineur looks tired into the camera. Stylishly dressed and dressed with a bow tie, his trademark, he hangs in an armchair. On the floor in front of him is a vase in which a number of brushes have been inserted. In atmosphere, seriousness and pose, the photo evokes memories of the portraits of the photographer, adventurer and balloonist Félix Nadar (Félix Tournachon), who in Paris in the second half of the nineteenth century were writers, artists, actors and revolutionaries in front of his camera. placed. This comparison with the world of Nadar is not that far fetched, because Leonidas Cornelis Johannes Mineur, who was born in 1892 in Katendrecht, was not only known for his chic clothing, but also for his thorough knowledge of artist life in Paris and life and work. of the impressionists. When he talked about Paris and Montmartre, his students were hanging on his lips. According to them, there was always "an artistic haze" around him, such as "a pastor is enveloped in a cloud of incense." His friendship with the great artist and self-taught artist Dolf Henkes, who was also born in Katendrecht, gave his artistry a certain status. Henkes acted as advisor to the studio, introduced his color theory here and "never turned out to be constructive criticism." Henkes also painted a beautiful portrait of Mineur's wife, Lena Wolff, in 1943. In addition, Mineur was friends with Staluse Pera, dancer, choreographer and owner of a Rotterdam dance school. Herman Bieling was also part of his circle of friends, who immortalized him in a beautiful drawing. In short, Leo Mineur was regarded as a 'great artist' in Rotterdam.

At a young age Mineur had acquired some fame as a 'tableau painter' for the groceries of De Gruyter. The grutters group, which made a tremendous advance in the 1920s and 1930s, had the illustrated ceramic tiles manufactured at plateel bakeries, such as Plateelbakkerij Zuid-Holland in Gouda. The introduction of the tile in the grocery store turned out to be a great step forward: the tiles were practical and hygienic, they uniformed the store and could be used as a billboard. Initially Brabant scenes were popular, but later De Gruyter shifted attention to exotic performances. Colorful tile pictures had to depict the countries where products were taken from the company. The grocers worked well in Rotterdam in particular: the largest turnover was achieved here in the Netherlands. For their designs, the bakeries depended on 'potter painters' - artists, mostly employed by the bakery, who made watercolors. The artists were known for their travel-loving, somewhat anarchistic mentality. Being loyal to the company played only a modest role - they just wanted to learn to paint. A number of leading pottery masters were responsible for De Gruyter's typical style. For example, artist Herman Oostveen was known in the studios as 'the little Rembrandt' and he borrowed his Brabant scenes from the agricultural realism of Jean Francois Millet (who was also immortalized by Nadar). Daniël Harkink and Jan van Ham, employed by Plateelbakkerij Zuid-Holland, skillfully mixed the peasant landscape with themes from the work of seventeenth-century Dutch masters. Johannes Vermeer in particular was popular. The work of the plateel painters was appreciated, because around 1920 De Gruyter and Plateelbakkerij Zuid-Holland decided on a partnership that would last for forty years. An own painter's studio was set up especially for the grower who would decorate many dozens of branches over the years. Also in Rotterdam. The studio specialized in 'Eastern scenes', including Javanese, Chinese and Japanese tableaus, but also in representations of the Middle East, in which entertainment in a casbah or traveling with a caravanserai were represented by a desert.

Leo Mineur started as a student in the workshop of Plateelbakkerij Zuid-Holland. Here he became proficient in the techniques of the Dutch and French masters, and he also painted the first Eastern scenes. Against this background, Wim de Boek's painted desert landscape must be understood. Mineur had developed a new painting technique in Gouda. Because the painters were paid per tile, he looked for ways to work faster: 'He managed to achieve more quantity in fewer hours. By drawing in the wet oil paint with pastel (colored chalk), the oil paint dried quickly and the colorful pastel was stuck in the paint. For example, he put two to three canvases in the oil paint at the same time, and then processed them with pastel. He would later complete that technique in the advertising studios'. In the studio of Plateelbakkerij Zuid-Holland, Mineur also got a rudimentary insight into commercial operations, where students, companions and masters maintained an organic hierarchy. That knowledge came in handy for him.

In 1919, Mineur offered his services to Hendrik Engelman. Atelier Engelman has belonged to the top of the Dutch advertising world since 1900. In its heyday, the company was located between Pompenburgsingel and Noordmolenwerf, near the Grand Theater, the impressive cinema of Abraham Tuschinski. 'Advertising plan? Engelman! 'Was the slogan of the company. Engelman was the first Rotterdam entrepreneur to prove that a well-organized advertising company could indeed be combined with craftsmanship. To that end, he employed quirky artists, such as Martinus Korpershoek. This artist was known as "a party number that the boss could never count on and you never knew if he would come back after the break, but if he was there, he would make incredibly beautiful paintings," said Albert Wayers, who also emplos found in Engelman's studio. Engelman had completed a training at the art academy and passed on his knowledge to young students, who were often sent to the evening academy. His son Jo, also trained as an artist, designed the company in a modern way.

Engelman's works were displayed everywhere in the Netherlands. There were advertising orders for shop windows and facades of De Bijenkorf, Vroom and Dreesmann and C&A, for numerous smaller entrepreneurs in the city and for mobile hand carts. Engelman found a real market in the painted cinema advertisements, which were usually placed above the entrance or in the corridors of the cinema. In the 1920s and 1930s, the studio painted around 30 works a week. "Everything is possible with God and with Engelman," was how it sounded in Rotterdam. Operational management was efficient, but also unconventional: "We worked at a terribly fast pace," Jo Engelman recalled. 'We had specially designed our company to avoid the labor inspectorate. Black curtains hung in front of all windows. Upstairs there was an alarm system and there were mirrors. When the police came to watch, we had the stairs go up. The people then had enough time to walk over the roofs from the third floor and lower two buildings further down '.

The drawn film fragments were much more than just advertising. The cinema painting appealed to the need for entertainment and imagination, for eroticism and adventure, for metropolitanism and the desire for the big world outside of Rotterdam. The paintwork became increasingly realistic and some painters sought the edge of decency. Seductive women, violence and exotic scenes were popular themes. Leo Mineur also adopted such an explicit approach, although his boss thought he too often exceeded decency limits. His pastel technique also started to turn against him. Mineur still had a high work rate, but his revolutionary method proved to be a disadvantage when he had to make cinema paintings: 'Sometimes the paint was already dry before the pastel was applied. The consequences were appalling. When visitors to cinemas leaned against his paintings, they then walked around with a vague image of a movie star on their coats, while the show on the board had almost disappeared '. Abraham Tuschinksi, the largest buyer of Atelier Engelman, felt cheated. Engelman then prohibited the pastel technique from being used any longer. Minor, not appreciated for his 'artistic qualities' and 'the necessary special effects of today', felt hurt and resigned immediately.

Minor now stood alone. For some years he worked as a freelancer in the evenings and he decided to start his own company. He took over an old artist, Jan Noorda, from the Gouda plateel bakery. He then opened Atelier Leo Mineur in the Hang, next to the Mosselhuis. He also tried to detach Albert Wayers from Atelier Engelman. Wayers initially had little appetite for the company, because Engelman had hired him permanently and also paid for his evening studies at the Academy of Fine Arts. And he learned a lot there. Especially by artist Johannes Heijberg. His teacher was a specialist in military representations and portraits; a genre that Wayers later translated into cinema paintings. After his departure from Engelman and a trip to the world of set design, he finally opted for Atelier Leo Mineur. That was about 1924. Cinema visits increased rapidly and the studio now decided to focus on painting cinema advertisements. Mineur became a 'head painter' and Wayers specialized as an 'entourage painter'.

But Mineur was not a big businessman. The young company also had to break into the Engelman market. He also suffered nerve attacks: the bigger the customer, the more nervous he became. To overcome his nerves, Mineur swallowed many tubes of aspirin, but they stunned him so strongly that he could hardly remember later what order the client had made. Yet the studio proved to be successful, because in the reporting of the Rotterdamsch Nieuwsblad the company popped up frequently. In addition to cinema paintings, the studio designed numerous decors, facade decorations and shop interiors in the 1930s. 'The beautiful play of colors' were praised in two giant paintings by the cartoon characters Betty Boop and Mickey Mouse at the entrance of Blijdorp Zoo; 'very artistic decorations' in the renewed Corso Cinema on the Coolsingel; a 'beautiful, long roof to De Doelen' designed in collaboration with the Philips workshop, which was considered special because of the 'modern' use of 'many mercury lamps'; the 'artistic façade' at the entrance of the 'Beurs voor de kroniek' in De Doelen; and 'the artistically cared for interior' of Magazijn Rio on the Statenweg. Strikingly often, reporters used the terms 'artistic' and 'artistic' - Atelier Leo Mineur apparently stood for quality. The company motto was therefore: "Tasteful and efficient".

Ab Writer
After the Second World War, the fame of the studio grew. In the blazing sea of ​​the bombing, most Rotterdam theaters were destroyed, including Thalia, City, Asta, the Oostertheater, Tivoli, Lumière, Cineac, Olympia, Centraal, the Grand Theater and Scala. With the arrival of new post-war cinemas, not only did employment in the advertising industry increase substantially, so did competition. Atelier Engelman and Atelier Leo Mineur twisted Atelier Schrijver, who did creditable work for numerous theaters in the city, including Arena, Luxor, Lustusca, Cineac AD, Victoria, Colosseum, the Princess Theater, Harmony and Corso. Albert Jan 'Ab' Schrijver had worked his way up to become a 'signature artist' through evening studies. He learned the advertising profession in Atelier Engelman and started his own studio in 1943. Applied art was different from free art, Schrijver thought. Every student had to take note of a manifesto that he had prepared himself:

'The merits of a designer, regardless of whether he designs buildings, utensils or posters, are not in finding one solution. After all, there are many possibilities for it. The designer will look for a solution that is as logical as possible; is adapted to the requirements of the object; and does not cost more than necessary [...] He will recognize that a forged work of simple reinforcing steel - of beautiful shape - is preferable to a workpiece in bronze - of inferior stature. He is aware that a simple letter executed in paint, but good in proportion and shape, far exceeds an inanimate letter made from expensive raw materials [...] He will always try to give direction to the wishes of his clients. He will in the first place keep an eye on the interests of his principals, knowing that his own interests are only served by satisfied clients. "

Schrijver was regarded as a warm, interested personality that greatly supported his students. The young Maurits van Emden had lost his Jewish father in the war and he would remain indebted to his employer for the emotional support he offered. When Van Emden joined the studio in 1951, he found a team of twelve employees. The team was led by 'three handsome artists' who made portraits of film stars:' I had sacred respect for them and I learned from them to develop certainty in my deeds with paint. They set a very high quality standard. I was able to compare that level myself, because I sometimes looked around in Brussels - they didn't do it crazy then, but certainly not better than in Rotterdam. ' The studio introduced new techniques, such as the American light box with individual letters clicked into a rail. Moreover, the company had earned a lot of money on the decoration of pavilions and stand construction during Rotterdam Ahoy 1950. Ab Schrijver also expected a boom in assignments for E55. He prepared for the expansion of his business and had borrowed a substantial sum from his wife's family. But his dream became a drama. After the assignments evaporated one by one, Van Emden wrote, "my boss must have panicked. He stepped in front of a train at his fishing spot. He was dragged under the wheels. There was only minced meat in his box, I was told by the person who had identified him. Difficult to understand. I stood there then. Again alone. Everything empty and bare '. After the loss of his father, Van Emden now also lost his patronage: 'For me, the event was a vomiting and melancholy dull thunder coming from nowhere under the belt. So I went down at his funeral '.

Erotic and censorship
The fiercely competing studios gladly looked down on the competition. In Atelier Leo Mineur, Schrijver's work was disqualified as 'scrupulous cleaning work' and 'they couldn't paint a banana with Engelman'. In the 1950s, Mineur painted for Arena, Passage, Thalia, Rex, the Princess Theater, Cineac AD, Cineac NRC and the Colosseum. The large city events, such as the E55, also offered a handful of work for Mineur's atelier. Mineur's decorators worked there alongside artists such as Karel Appel, his assistant Jan Cremer, Louis van Roode, Lex Horn and Dick Elffers. Perhaps the most important contribution of the studios to the public space was the unveiled representation of eroticism. The naked female figure revealed in 1953 at the Blaak, Welfare, made by artist Piet Starreveld, 'Nakie van het Blakie' exerted a great attraction for young men. A wave of erotic cinema paintings reinforced that image in the city center. The fear of morality, which had kept the war years and the reconstruction in a stranglehold so long, gradually dissolved. More and more challenging and seductive women colored the walls in the city. Journalist Koos Postema wrote about this: 'They were always visible. Your eyes could not ignore it. All those women's faces! Elizabeth Taylor or those terrifying Bette Davis! Ava Gardner. Was there ever a better movie star? Sometimes I thought of the man who had to climb the ladder to paint a portrait of Ava Gardner. Would he fall in love with her during that job? Like so many men fell in love with her, even though they did not have to take a ladder in front of it '.

The young students in the studios enjoyed painting beautiful women, even though the management constantly warned against too bold scraps: "Boys, blouses not too far open, skirts not too short." A reporter saw sketches of 'an excessively well-fed young lady who wears a Dior blouse, but which has not had the fashion house put a knot too much'. To prevent excesses, the municipality introduced control. Once a week, the studios had to present their sketches at the town hall to "Mr. Fisherman Officer in Room 26." Usually the youngest students were sent on the road with sketchbooks. Kees Sparrreboom, a student at Atelier Leo Mineur, made that trip every week. "Your pictures even make an old fool when I am wide awake," the official grumbled. With a pencil, he changed the lengths of skirts or updated cleavages, "to make fun of his Puritan superiors." But the guidelines of the town hall were often ignored in the studio - after all, the erotic effect of a painting was the most important commercial asset of the studios. Paul Wayers, CEO and son of Albert Wayers, recalled: “You sometimes got angry cinema directors on the phone. What do you make me! There are all sorts of men here in the hall looking at that sign of yours. And they really don't pass for a ticket, because what they get to see is a lot less than what they see here! '

Jo Engelman always took a pencil with him to the inspection: "If a lady with a low neckline had been drawn, they would ask:" Hey, can't you paint a little lace for it? "" Sulking, he left the neckline on the spot with his pencil fades. Maurits van Emden also played the role of mediator between the censor and the workshop paintings. He was not sent to the town hall, but to a judge in Kralingen. Van Emden also experienced that weekly course on behalf of Atelier Schrijver as a deep humiliation.

'As long as I worked at the studio, it was my Thursday job to go to a review committee with all the designs of painted film star photos. That was a group of notables; often municipal officials, but also lawyers and prosecutors. They looked at whether the film billboards could go through the moral bracket. They were strict, completely laughable. A new member was added: a judge. He lived on Essenlaan in Kralingen, in a very beautiful, somewhat older villa. I had to hand the photos and drawings there to a servant and then stayed in the vestibule, on the mat, in front of the draft door, awaiting the answer. All in all, that was not so pleasant, because it was after all our work; a week of hard work of fourteen men, a deadly serious affair and not a case that you just hand over to a maid. After a while, the man came to me with an ironed sail, as it is called. He began to question me sharply, very suspiciously and condescendingly about whether one of the photos would actually be painted in such a way. That was absolutely impossible in his eyes. Shame, he thought it was. It was a photo of Romy Schneider, the innocence in person, depicted in a Tyrolean dirndl dress for her first Sissimovie. But ... the impulse to her bosom could be seen, and he was not allowed to. I already participated from Betty Grable - a real pin-up. And we had already painted Ava Gardner, Esther Williams, Rita Hayworth and Marilyn Monroe in provocatively tight blouses and beautiful bathing suits! I had never experienced such a creepy, scary jellyfish before. That judge later became president of a court, and that made me think. That profession is also relative, I learned then.

Traditional guild structure
Before the Second World War, the studios mainly attracted young, unskilled students with an interest in drawing, later on the studios increasingly drew on the arsenal of students or graduate students of the Academy of Visual Arts. During the 1950s, dozens of students from the academy worked in Mineur's studio. At Atelier Schrijver, all twenty employees in 1961 were academically educated or were educated at the academy. Atelier Engelman also made grateful use of the student file of the academy. Wages were sadly low: "But yes, you didn't do the painting for the money, you did it for love - for free expression, for spontaneous design," wrote Kees Sparreboom. His eccentric master painter in particular exerted a tremendous influence in that respect. 'Leo Mineur was really obsessed with art. For him there was a great admiration and a deep respect for all. His knowledge of art and his professionalism were considered phenomenal. Mineur taught his students pride and discipline and excelled in 'correct interaction with his employees'. The pupils also took home such life lessons. Working in the studio, Sparreboom noted, was not a work, but "an extremely important LEARNING SCHOOL."

However, working conditions were downright bad. The housing of Atelier Leo Mineur should even be considered miserable: the atelier was too cold or too hot, people were constantly moving to other locations, petroleum stoves exploded, coffee was out of the question and the students had to work standing up to stay awake. Then the studio was located high in a warehouse, then again it moved to the former stables of the mounted police (where the hayloft was used to make paint) or the studio was hit by skew and subsidence. The management of Atelier Schrijver also sometimes had nasty features. Maurits van Emden's work consisted of scraping old cinema billboards on the banks of the Rotte with a putty knife. 'We sometimes stood for days at a time along the quay on the river for coloring. Stupid work, in which you also had to be careful not to make any cracks in the jute fabric with which the plates were stretched '. Van Emden called the work in the studio 'a tough solo'.

In modern post-war Rotterdam, the studios seemed like a remnant of days gone by. The traditional organizational structure of the studios, based on the principle of reciprocal relationships between masters, companions and students, had hardly changed in the course of time. Paul Wayers commented on this: 'Well, the way it looks here in our studio, that is what a studio looked like in Rembrandt's time. The craft that is practiced here is in fact a kind of medieval profession [...] The skill and creativity with pencil and brush are infinitely more important here than the 'time-is-money-learn'. Unfortunately, I must admit that I have not only witnessed the fall, but also the demise of one of the last medieval artists 'studios with students, companions and masters.'

That structure certainly contributed to the demise of the studios. Around 1960 the end of the golden period of the painting studio was approaching. A falling demand for cinema paintings accelerated that end. "There is absolutely no bread in it anymore," said Jo Engelman. "What you see in Rotterdam about advertising all comes from Amsterdam." And with that the bond between the studios and the art academy came to an end. A new type of studio made its appearance: the studios of reconstruction artists such as Louis van Roode, who were looking for employees at the art academy for the manufacture of large monumental wall artworks. The time when the profession of cinema painter could act as a springboard to an existence as an independent visual artist was over. National schemes for visual artists were expanded in 1956 and four years later the Rotterdam percentage scheme was also a fact. Artists were given more and more opportunities to make free work and still provide for their maintenance.

Leo Mineur left the company in 1960. He died in 1976. Less and less was painted in the decoration workshops. Stand construction and typography were now important. Paul Wayers sold Atelier Leo Mineur in 1995 to Chris Jansen, a former manager of the oil company British Petrol (BP). Jansen tried to revitalize the ailing company, but in 2003 the bankruptcy of one of the most characteristic advertising studios followed. The 'Leo Mineur' brand turned out to be strong. A former student of the studio, Willem Kerssemeijer, bought the rights with his wife Michelle Geurts and gave the company a restart; first from a garage box in Schiedam and later from a company site in Berkel and Rodenrijs. Painting was also placed at the top of the agenda. The last medieval atelier in Rotterdam had resilience and endurance.

Honor repair for craftsmanship
Viewed from the perspective of the current creative class - underpinned by technological innovations, highly trained screen workers and often expensive marketing campaigns - the classic guild model of the advertising studios looks dated. But in his stimulating study The Craftsman (2008) sociologist and cellist Richard Sennett placed the craft in a context of social interaction, social change and new citizenship. He does not view the history of the Enlightenment as an abstract history of ideas, but as a history of the way in which knowledge transfer took place among artisans. Making is thinking: by learning a craft, the student gets to know himself and gets the opportunity to shape his worldview and citizenship. The structure of the studio contributes to respect for tools, the ritualization of knowledge transfer and the shaping of social relationships and citizenship. According to Sennett, a new approach to craftsmanship and craftsmanship might offer solutions to many contemporary social problems.

The Rotterdam philosopher Henk Oosteling developed a similar line of thought Words like deeds (2009). This theoretical underpinning of the 'Vakmanstad' program, intended to give a new impulse to the education of disadvantaged children in Rotterdam South, seems to support the forgotten organic structures of the old studio. Oosterling argues for reparation for ritualized forms of knowledge transfer, in which masters, companions and students play a crucial role. His program focuses on the insertion of judo, cooking (urban agriculture) and philosophy in the curriculum of primary schools. He also argues for 'specialist yards' - workshops run by companies and city districts, where young unemployed people are offered professional training in their own neighborhood. According to Oosterling, the importance of craftsmanship lies in the relationships between people and the things they make, regardless of their cultural background, income or social position. In the studio's practice, concepts such as quality, pride, integrity, responsibility and citizenship are stripped of their abstract meaning and then interpreted as reciprocal relationships. "What interests me in craftsmanship," writes Oosterling, "is a new understanding of the world." He takes a more egalitarian approach to the relationship: the organic structure of the studio is not only suitable for young unemployed people, academically trained professionals also derive their professionalism from those structures: 'What many have lost sight of is that even university courses are still based on an almost medieval guild model. After all, the aspirant functions within a master-companion structure. Not for nothing do we call the starting student a 'bachelor': a companion. Then they have to take a master test. As a 'master' they can further develop their skills, so that after the ultimate master test - the dissertation - they can work independently '.

The above insights certainly contributed to the creation of the Bouwkeet on the Schiedamseweg. This became 17 on September 2016 makerspace opened for residents of Bospolder-Tussendijken by mayor Aboutaleb. The initiative comes from the Verre Bergen Foundation - a philanthropic organization that values ​​social returns. The motto of the Bouwkeet is: 'Making with your hands what has come up in your head. Learning from others, learning with others'. Central to philosophy is the principle of reciprocity: in exchange for the use of the workplace, the students return their knowledge and designs, but also workshops. Another tradition was also honored: the studio's connection with the professional arts domain - Daniel White was appointed as director, previously associated with the Willem de Kooning Academy as a teacher. In the Bouwkeet, teachers and students work with wood, metal, ceramics and textiles, but also with 3D printers and ultramodern laser cutters.

From this perspective, the old creative class, which includes the studios of Engelman, Mineur and Schrijver, makes a much less dated impression. The advertising studios were more than just commercial workplaces - the companies guided young people on their way to a social career and imparted their love for art and culture, regardless of their background, education or social position in society. Is there not a model in the old studio that could still be used today to resolve issues related to the large number of early school-leavers and the increasing youth unemployment? Sennett, Oosterling and the founders of the Bouwkeet tend to answer that question in the affirmative. The characteristics that they attribute to craftsmanship are precisely the merits of the old creative industry, previously enumerated by Kees Sparreboom: love for tools and the craft, transfer of knowledge and skills, promotion of correct manners, respect for colleagues and their work, and love of art and culture. Indeed, the studio as 'LEERSCHOOL', suitable for shaping a valuable existence in the post-industrial city.

Related artwork

Leo Mineur (2017) Atelier Leo Mineur