portrait-with-bookAnne Verhoijsen


Children don’t wonder if they can draw well. They just do. Big, crooked eyes, pig noses, hair lying on top of the head like a bad wig, fingers like rakes. The result is often peerlessly pure and authentic. Most people lose this talent for drawing over the years. Anne Verhoijsen still has it. Although it took some time before she dared to believe that herself.

This book contains twice twenty-six drawings made by Anne Verhoijsen in 2023. The first series consists of cheerful color drawings of women, men, neuter figures and the occasional child, often in groups of two, three or four together, surrounded by green, blue or pink dots. The drawing style is childishly naive, the way adolescent girls draw: charmingly awkward, with great attention to style and appearance and with a clumsiness that reflects that life is not yet completely under control. 

Anne tells me that for years she was convinced she could not draw. She had an idea in her head of how to draw, which was not how she drew herself. She had been brought up thinking that making a ‘pretty drawing’ was something different from what she did. That was also the reason why in primary school, during an assignment to draw a swan, she gave her notebook to a classmate and decided never to draw again. But the blood creeps …. Eventually, drawing was the first thing she picked up when she decided to explore artistry at the age of 45. During and after her training at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam, which she completes in 2002, she plunged into other media and disciplines. Like a child in a sweet shop, she samples painting, performance, video, photography and ceramics. Driven by curiosity and an unstoppable urge to learn things she cannot yet do.

The desire to draw does not leave her. “It is my most primary desire to draw, but at the same time I find it very difficult and have a great fear of the white paper,” she says. So to combat that fear, Anne starts by putting large colored dots on the drawing sheet, neatly spaced on the white sheet. Then she sets herself to drawing. The key is to do so without too much thought and, above all, without judgement, without censorship. Of course, sometimes something doesn’t go quite the way she wants, but then she just has to keep drawing to fix it. “Draw against failure?” I ask. “That’s nicely put, but it’s not about ‘good’ or ‘bad’,” Anne replies, “it took me a long time to accept that.”

During our meeting in her studio, she shows me the series of 11 ‘dot-drawings’, as Anne conveniently calls them. A few days later, I am sent razor-sharp photos of the series. A few weeks later, she sends me another set of photos of drawings that also belong to the series, although these have no dots. I see striking heads, figures with all kinds of skin colors and hairstyles, brown curls, long black locks, bald crests, clothes with busy patterns, ties and lots of bows. Most of the figures stand close together, as a family or as intimate friends. They stare straight at you (or slightly squint) with striking almond-shaped eyes, their mouths full of tiny teeth, their hair neatly stuck to their skulls. They smile silently or seem

to be shouting something with their wide crooked mouths. Sometimes a detail suddenly pops up that seems more ‘lifelike’ than the rest. Like the female in Japanese clothing on the purple upper body of a young woman whose facial features are also drawn more realistically. Anne confesses that she still occasionally tries to draw ‘pretty’ as she thinks she should, recognizably true to reality, in determinedly clear lines. But she usually manages, thankfully, to let go of that and let the pencil and her imagination follow their own path. In the latest drawings, Anne seems to have dared to do that even more: compared to the festive-looking dot drawings, these are even freer and bolder in their use of colour and expression. In the last drawing – of two young women wearing headscarves and a bespectacled lady with a hairdo like a black crown – Fuck you suddenly flashes between the lips of one of the veiled women.

The women and men depicted in Anne’s drawings are usually fictional, sprung from her own imagination or based on a photo she saw in a newspaper or magazine. Sometimes a portrait of a loved one creeps in, for instance of her friend and fellow artist Jos Houweling or other artists she admires such as Faith Ringgold or Jean-Michel Basquiat. But these are not literal portraits, rather they act as an occasion or source of inspiration. Anne talks enthusiastically about Faith Ringgold’s exhibition she recently saw at the Musée Picasso in Paris. “Especially her small portraits and their honesty impressed me. You feel it is not a concept, but life itself, so sincere and lived through.” Perhaps she recognizes something of her own pursuit of freedom and independence in it. Growing up with the idea that she should above all be of service to others, that aspiration – acquiring inner freedom – is her main drive. Although deep down there is also still an element of wanting to help other people, of ‘wanting to do good’.

In the run-up to writing this text, I also had the opportunity to experience this. Anne sends me kind little messages, pictures of flowers in her garden and wise words: “Relaxedness is your strength. The rest is already there.” Those phrases actually sum up exactly what her drawings are about: looseness, playfulness, fun. It took Anne Verhoijsen years to let go of her preconceived ideas about drawing and really start drawing. Now she can do it.

PS: A follow-up app from Anne: “Drawing has everything to do with meditation. Focusing on what happens between your hand, heart, and head. That concentration is all that matters to my way of working.”

Nina Folkersma



“My Aunt” was the first drawing by Anne that I looked at seriously. A woman in religious clothes, brown, black, white hood, a Catholic nun. Anne: ‘My aunt Hyacinthe as a missionary sister in Suriname.’ Coffee with oat milk. I asked if she had made the drawing a long time ago. Anne: ‘No, that’s just how I draw.’ I was surprised. Satisfaction with Pablo Picasso: ‘Every child is an artist, the challenge is to remain so.’ And lo and behold, Anne still has the drawing child in her. Anne and her aunt. Her drawings show wonder, feeling and reality, all in one. Plus optimism, warming joy and otherworldliness. Anne possesses a rare talent. Do a dance for fun. Anne put her talent, gold nugget, to rest for a while, about 15 years, after Nan Hoover saw her drawings and said: ‘Drop everything and start drawing, drawing and keep drawing.’ This statement had a paralyzing effect. At the same time, Anne blocked herself, she distrusted her talent and preferred to draw normally. I don’t want to know what normal drawing entails, it sounds boring and normal doesn’t suit Anne, boring at all. Slowly or suddenly, Anne embraced her way of drawing. Time for a second dance. Back to her aunt, to that special afternoon. I went home and the next morning I received a portrait of me by email. Anne often draws at night after waking up from her unintentionally moving legs. A small portrait drawn on graph paper didn’t seem like it, but it was me. Younger and mischievous, that’s how I want to live. I witnessed a flood of drawings. The size of the drawing grew from A5 to A0, from small to quite large. The heads became even more expressive and looked at you. Eyes that eat you up, mouths like that. Her aunt’s drawing showed one person. the last drawing I saw shows twelve. I predict a drawing with twenty-four heads measuring 1.5 x 3.5 meters, the same size as her drawing table. Then there is a museum wall with almost countless heads.

Paper. Anne places black and white copies of heads on the paper. She picks those heads from the newspapers, photos of herself and a friend. She makes a composition and draws the heads in thin lines. This creates a drawing in thin lines. The drawing is finished, but it is the beginning for Anne. She focuses her attention on one cup. She works with colored pencil and paint together. For Anne, everything stands still while working. It is a process of creation, details, transitions. The head gets a soul. Then she starts the second and the next. Some heads tend to hide in the background. Towards the end she looks at the whole and decides that something needs to be added to the left or right for balance, or that with white, a head should be pushed back. Ready, the miracle is here.

My favourite?
A different favorite every week. Today a twelve-member family, twenty-four eyes and eighteen eyes look at you. There is air in the drawing, it is not fully
it is not fully drawn. In the middle a large brown hand holding the head of a deer. Is he squeezing, or is it love. And what do you mean a white man has a dark hand? Or conversely, why does a tan hand have a white head? On the left a large head with a fantastic jacket. Bottom right two women in one dress. Top center a woman with green-blond hair, drawn upside down. And next to it, that’s me, absolutely, with the smallest head of the family. I don’t look like me, but I am, I look like I am.
‘Every child is an artist, the challenge is to remain so.’ This
quote from Picasso fits Anne perfectly. Her drawings have little in common with Picasso. To please Anne, I declare that it is a statement by James Ensor. His carnival portraits are reminiscent of Anne’s work. Wait, Anne is better and she also makes ceramics just like Picasso and she is better, different. Every artist is different and Anne is very special and beautifully different.

Jos Houweling



Anne Verhoijsen (1951) grew up in Someren in North Brabant. As a child she spoke to an English family in a playground. It was the beginning of a correspondence that lasted for years. The excitement of the foreign stamps on the letter. The sensational feeling that your world is getting bigger, is at the root of her longing for other worlds. She holed up afternoons in the local bookstore. Books were her treasures. In elementary school during an assignment to draw a swan, she gave her notebook to her classmate and decided never to draw again. Eventually things turned out differently. Drawing was the first thing she picked up when she decided to discover artistry at the age of 45. In 2002, she graduated from the Sandberg Institute.

In the public eye, she emerged with several projects. The performance Splitzij ( split silk tread) 1999-2001. She went global with the film and performance Vision of Paradise (2005-2008). In 2013, she presented the artist’s book “ Reisgenoten” (Travel companions.) An autobiographical account of books that were important to her until she was 50. Homage to the voices that comforted her, in her youth, and encouraged her. “ Reisgenoten”, is a handmade book. It is in the collection of the House of the Book, the Caldic collection, De Nederlandsche Bank, MoMA NY and NY Public Library. During her residency at the EKWC, 2021-2021, she made a dream come true by building her own plane out of ceramics. Bureau Europa in Maastricht, fall 2022. And now, rich from all the wandering, she sits behind the drawing board and smiles.



Anne Verhoijsen is not the kind of artist that sits down at her desk in the studio every morning at nine. Every work she creates finds its origins in a need, an urge, or a question. Her oeuvre is defined by an openness to other cultures, her affinity with fabrics and clothing and a longing for beauty. Following her first world trip, she returned to the Netherlands with a deep understanding of the idea that people differ from each other in numerous ways yet at the same time share a longing for beauty and acknowledgment. From that moment, every work has become a step closer to better understanding the beauty found outside the boundary of our Western standards.
Hanne Hagenaars Art critic and curator.

Here you can read an interview with Anne on one of her projects (in Dutch)


Tanja Karreman about the work of Anne Verhoijsen

Link to Dutch text

Anne has made an aeroplane


Between my ending and my birth

there lives a small eternity

that hugs and cuddles me.

No time exists elsewhere on earth.

Leo Vroman, 2011

Anne Verhoijsen’s work is a lifelong investigation into inner freedom. That inner freedom, or rather, that inner life, is what drives her – and this drive is fed through dialogue with others. Works of art are moments in that process, testimonies to an expanding network, little chunks of clotted time, gifts for those others. As she herself put it, ‘My work consists of long-running projects that are sometimes hard to label. The projects evolve from an idea, a dream, a message or a vision. They always contain an element of ‘doing good’. Doing good – be it in the role of yoga teacher imparting to others the art of Iyengar yoga, or of the emancipatory striking of a huge gong (a dreamed performance) – there is nothing separating art and life, separating child and artist. Although it was n ot until she turned fifty that she decided to become a professional artist and to study at the Sandberg Institute in Amsterdam, the urge to discover new worlds had always been there.

In recent months, throughout the second Dutch lockdown, Anne Verhoijsen was resident in the European Ceramic Work Centre in Oisterwijk. She experienced this residency as one of the most creative and inspiring periods of her life, and it resulted in her pièce de résistance – a large ceramic aeroplane. The plane was finished one week prior to her departure, and hung on two straps in the large exhibition space, like a boat pulled ashore, awaiting transport. She did not want it on a stand, most definitely not. From a distance everything about it looks like an aeroplane – its stalwart expression and its dimensions according to the ratios of a real aircraft, even the ‘decoration’ that has been applied to the tail – but up close, the subtle aesthetic differences become apparent. Everything seems soft and tactile: the creamy white colour; the nose, round like the muzzle of a killer whale; the dull matte glaze. The tail decoration turns out to be old postage stamps from the artists’ collection from all over the world, which have been fired in the glaze. Her temporary studio is strewn with little aeroplanes – drawn; on stands affixed to the wall; lying like washed-up sea creatures… inspired, transcendent. So too are the little ceramic ladders, the endearing turtles, and a series of little white mountains or puddings, which turn out to be bra cups cast from Marlies Dekkers’ packaging. ‘Well, there were moments when I couldn’t work on the aeroplane and I just made all kinds of things, or I helped other artists.’

Why an aeroplane? Fleetingly one entertains the idea that perhaps she has made a fitting tribute to one of the most powerful objects of the 20th century, a monument for (the end of) an era – the object that took us everywhere, the object that contributed to the pollution of the planet and ultimately to the spread of Covid. With this work of art, Anne Verhoijsen is marking a turning point – after all, travel will forever be seen in a different light. Hopefully we will find new ways to redeem our irrepressible desire for freedom and growth.
But nothing could be less, and more, true…

Anne Verhoijsen grew up in Someren, a village in the province of North Brabant. She recalls an instance when, in a nearby playground, she initiated a conversation with an English family – it was to be the start of a long-lasting exchange of letters with one of the children. That excitement of those first foreign postage stamps on the envelope on the doormat and the sensational feeling that your world was expanding: these lie at the basis of her longing for exotic places, other worlds, and the worlds of others. It was not until 1980 that she embarked on her first journey across the world. Meantime she slaked her thirst by reading books, spending whole afternoons taking cover in the local bookshop. She saved up in order to buy them – books were sacred treasures through which it was already possible for her to travel. In an interview with Mieke van der Weij, Anne explained, ‘Books liberate me from a restrictive environment.’ Libraries and bookshops were like temples, providing access to an inner world. Growing up in the relative isolation of the village produced in her a longing for the other, for discovery, in a way that is reminiscent of a passage from the book My Dear Favourite by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld:

I saw how quickly you tired of the game, gazing into the distance, beyond the shining heads of lettuce in the vegetable patch and the greenhouse plants, hungry for a life that lay waiting for you beyond The Village, you wanted to be gone from here, as most of the girls and boys of your age wished, to eventually leave the home front, some became soldiers, joining the army, only to feel homesick for the camouflage of The Village and return, but you were certain that you would never be troubled by melancholy, everything you owned was to be found in your head…

Even the books… Everything in fact – her life and her work – is contained in her work Travelling Companions (Reisgenoten). In 2011 Verhoijsen produced a book embracing all the books which had been important to her in the different periods of her life preceding her fiftieth birthday, and supplemented with a poem written especially for her by poet Leo Vroman. Across each double page spread we see the cover of an opened book held by two hands. The book prevents us viewing the face behind it: the book becomes the face, the bare torso carries it. In chronological order a portrait of an era unfolds, which reveals to us a picture of Anne Verhoijsen’s fascinations – titles such as The Big Book of Fairy Tales; Annelies Goes to Rotterdam; White Feather; Ellen at Ballet; My Life; The Deeps of Deliverance; The Drama of the Gifted Child; Memories, Dreams, Reflections; Anna Karenina; Alberto Giacometti Drawings… Lets Take Back Our Space.

The last-named book – which has the subtitle “Female” and “Male” Body Language as a Result of Patriarchal Structures, and was written in 1979 by Marianne Wex – proves to be the key to a better understanding of Anne’s motive for making an aeroplane. Aeroplane as symbol for freedom; aeroplane as metaphor for global connectivity and equality; aeroplane as a symbol for the spread of Covid; aeroplane as symbol of exploration and travel. But, above all, aeroplane as a symbol of masculinity. ‘I’m am seventy now, and in this creative lockdown I have managed to appropriate something that was alien to me. By doing this I have transcended myself, liberated myself, just like by striking the gong. My world has expanded again, because I, Anne, made an aeroplane!’

Anne herself makes the comparison with Louise Bourgois’ iconic, hugely over-sized, true-to-life penis (Fillette, 1967), which hangs on a kind of enormous fish-hook that pierces the glans. Whereas Louise Bourgois undermines the superiority of the masculine and shows its vulnerability, as realistically as possible, Anne Verhoijsen’s aeroplane is a presentation of inner freedom and imagination as achievable goods available to everyone: life as an eternity of new discoveries. ‘I do plan to fly again. It will be complicated – my carbon footprint, CO2, Covid, my ageing father – but I do really want to see Japan.’
Nothing human is alien to Anne.

Tanja Karreman, Feburary 2021





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